A year ago, the Hong Kong protest was attributed to the tension in Indonesia, which Millegram briefly covered in our TL;DR. This year, Thai students have mustered their courage to launch a revolution, and the protests in Hong Kong is a source of inspiration for them.
Tensions in Thailand started at the end of February after the Constitution Court disbanded the Future Forward Party over illegal loans. For many youths, they saw this as a consolidation of power by the current leader and an act against democracy, sparking protests around various universities. These protests were held in the hope of weakening the current leader’s power.
This mistrust of the current military-backed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is also a result of a disputed general election that was held last year. Information given by the Election Commission was unclear, raising suspicions.
However, when the country declared a state of emergency in light of the COVID-19 situation, all protests ceased temporarily.
MISSING ACTIVISTS, BLANK PAPERS AND THREE-FINGER SALUTES
As Thailand began to ease its curfew, tension increased ever more as news of an exiled activist was reported to be missing. While Thai officials denied any involvement, sceptics doubted this. The student-led protests have resumed since 18 July. Some demonstrators held up banners, which read “Down with dictatorship, long live democracy”. Others held up blank sheets of paper, something which was learnt from the Hong Kong protestors, and some even flashed a three-finger salute, a symbol from the Hunger Games series.
FROM POLITICAL TO SOCIO-EDUCATIONAL REFORM
For instance, one of the protests saw students fighting for a change in the education system, calling for an update to the curriculum and removing discriminatory rules. This came after a video of a teacher humiliating a female student went viral, although such outcries are not new.
According to one student, the education system in Thailand has made the students “puppets” who are not given the “right to express” themselves. Furthermore, during a dialogue session with the education minister, the students presented him with a gift of standard textbooks and a cane, as a symbol that they no longer want to see those in their education system anymore.
In the words of political scientist Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee, “The education system in Thailand does not allow [the students] to think, to create or to initiate anything”.
Students also took to the street, fighting for the acceptance of gender fluidity and LGBTQ rights as its education system is still largely conservative.
As anger and frustration continue to grow, the Bad Students, a sarcastic name the students gave themselves for the demonstration, will continue to recruit more students and fight for change.