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Is it all worth it?: Trying times for youths in Thailand

Updated: 15 hours ago


Written by: Gladis Hor

Here’s what everyone should understand: Criticism against the Thai monarchy could land anyone in jail for up to 15 years. However, pro-democracy protesters are challenging the monarchy for the umpteenth time. The ongoing youth demonstrations are by far the largest protests after the 2014 Thai coup d'état. Why is this so?


Let’s look at some of the key historical events leading up to the recent youth demonstrations.


Political unrest has existed in Thailand for almost two decades, with series after series of coups between the Thai pro-democracy and monarchy supporters. The infamous Thai King, “Maha Vajiralongkorn”, was known for his immorality as his reign was littered with scandalous acts and abused his power.


The recent 2019 election sparked exasperation amongst the younger generations which was a driving factor to the recent Student Movement. The rise of a pro-reform party, Future Forward Party(FFP) led by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, in the 2019 General Election gave youths hope that Thailand could move towards a democratic nation.


Younger generations are enraged about the consolidated power of both Prayut Chan-o-cha and the King over Thailand, as was evident through the use of pro-military power in the dissolution of the Future Forward Party.

Youths are voicing their economic dissatisfaction, taken to aim at Thailand’s ruling power structures, and do not seem to be showing any signs of retreating.


As we dive further into our discussion, there are two stances that I would like to present.


Fragility of Thailand’s current economy

It is undeniable that the economic damage is taking a decline to an already bleak time for Thailand, especially amidst the pandemic. Yet, with a long-term perspective, this could put decades of political discontentment to an end.

Figure 1: Growth Rate of Thailand’s GDP

Source: Trading Economics; Thailand GDP Growth Rate ; 1993-2020 Data ; 2021- 2022 Forecast


Thailand’s GDP has shrunk 12.1%, as seen in Figure 1, since the Asian Financial Crisis.

The bulk of Thailand's GDP is credited to its tourism and export industry. This economic reliance on the aforementioned has led them to their biggest annual contraction yet.

Amidst the recovery of the economy from the COVID-19, rising social issues continue to falter Thailand’s economic problem, unemployment stands, and pro-democracy activists have begun boycotting big conglomerates.


Activists are using the hashtags #bannationsponsors as a form of protesting to show their dissent towards conglomerates that support the Prayuth government. Businesses are disrupted due to large gatherings of youth demonstrations. This implies that Thailand will risk facing prolonged recovery in its economy.


Grueling fight for the youths

Witnessing faults in the country’s political system and several occurrences of unjustifiable situations such as (e.g disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit). Youths feel strongly about the abolishment of an anachronistic society, in which their views are not fully respected in the country.

The rising political awareness in the younger generations, helps youths understand the importance of having a democratic system to progress towards a synchronistic and open system.

In 2018, the total population of Thailand amounted to approximately 67.79 million inhabitants, ages ranging from 15 to 64 forming up to 70% of the population.


Figure 2: Literacy rate of youths aged 15-24 in Thailand

Source: Trading Economics; Thailand - Literacy Rate, Youth Total (% Of People Ages 15-24) - 1980-2018 Data ; 2020 Forecast.


The literacy rate in Thailand was reported at 98.14% in 2018, as seen in Figure 2. As the up and coming generations get better informed, they are starting to find their own voices against their country’s flawed constitutional monarchy. Youths have been approaching these protests strategically with information dissemination through the use of social media platforms. Many defy the authorities while remaining vocal about their stance and are determined to escalate their protest until amendments are made to the constitutions.


Conclusion

To date, there are still a vast number of pro-elitists, mostly composed of the elder generation, where they do not believe in democracy and let the military take charge.

Despite all the adversities that the new generations of youth are currently facing, they have a strong hope towards an open and liberal democracy. I am staying hopeful, that a democratic Thailand will be brought forth in time to come.


References

In Thailand, a new generation finds its voice. (n.d.). Retrieved from Financial Times.


Panyaarvudh, J. (2019, June 28). The long, arduous journey towards democracy. Retrieved from The Nation Thailand.


Philipose, R. P. (2020, July 26). Explained: Why young people are protesting against the government in Thailand, again. Retrieved from The Indian Express.


Profile: Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn. (n.d.). Retrieved from BBC News.


Protests risk derailing consumption-led economic recovery. (2020, October 28). Retrieved from The Straits Times.


Ratcliffe, R. R. (2020, September 22). Thailand protests: everything you need to know. Retrieved from The Guardian.


Reed, J. (2020, November 24). Thai protesters turn their anger on country’s big businesses. Retrieved from Financial Times.


Regan, H. R., & Olarn, K. O. (2019, March 24). Thailand election 2019: Young people demand change. Retrieved from CNN.


Regan, H. R., & Olarn, K. O. (2019, March 25). Thailand election 2019: Confusion mounts as results delayed. Retrieved from CNN.


Setboonsarng, C. P. T. (2020, August 26). Thai protest boycotts force businesses to pick sides. Retrieved from Reuters.


Thai economy’s Covid-19 recovery shaken as protests pose new risks. (2020, October 27). The Straits Times.


Thai protests: How pro-democracy movement gained momentum. (n.d.). Retrieved from BBC News.


Thailand protests: Risking it all to challenge the monarchy. (n.d.). Retrieved from BBC News.

Thailand’s recession deepens with biggest GDP fall since 1998 Asian financial crisis. (2020, August 17). Retrieved from The Straits Times.


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