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WEBINAR: “A Conversation: What is happening in Thailand now?”

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Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree, Programme
Chair of Shape-Sea, will join an esteemed group of human rights defenders at
this timely webinar on the current situation of democracy and human rights in
Thailand.The Thai people expressed their discontent with the government
through massive demonstrations on the main streets around Bangkok from
October 17-21, 2020. The protesters demanded that Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Thai
Prime Minister who came to power through a coup d’état in 2014, steps down.
His victory was disputed, with the demonstrators adamantly against the idea
of Thailand being led by a former military general. However, Thai King Maha
Vajiralongkorn inaugurated Prayut as Prime Minister for a second term on June
9, 2019. This seemingly undemocratic move has provoked various protests that
are still ongoing and show no signs of abatement.The origin of the protests
dates back to February 21, 2020 when the Thai Federal Court ruled in favour
of dissolving Thailand’s pro-democracy party, the Future Forward Party (Phak
Anakhot Mai). This led to hundreds of people rallying in protest on the
streets. Pro-democracy students from the Faculty of Political Science
Thammasat University in Bangkok under the Free Youth group (Yaowashon Plod
Ak), who staged this protest, further demanded that the power of the rulers
be curtailed by reviewing the 2017 constitution. Pro-democracy protesters
also planted a plaque on the ground next to the Thai Grand Palace on Sunday,
September 20th, as a harsh statement to the government to be more democratic.
The plaque reads: “This country belongs to the people — not to the
monarch.” The Free Youth Group voiced out three demands during their
huge demonstrations: first, the dissolution of parliament; second, ending
intimidation of the people who criticize the government and the royal family;
and third, the amendment of the constitution.To the outside world, the
demonstrations seem to be an obvious if not natural conclusion of the
political struggle of the last two decades in Thailand, with the Thai
monarchy always siding with the military in the struggle between democratic
and authoritarian forces. Yet, in the Thai context, this is an epochal
change, a sudden and profound transformation that many people are still
finding it hard to grasp. After a week of daily protests springing up across
Bangkok and the rest of the country, what happens next is uncertain.
Regardless of what the short-term consequences of these mobilisations will
be, the verbal attacks against the monarchy, which have become the new
normal, is unprecedented in the country’s history. It points to the
unexpected and sudden disintegration of monarchic hegemony, a political
ideology that has dominated Thailand since the Cold War.In this webinar, we
shall discuss the Thai students’ movement history and involvement in the
protests, and the merits and demerits of their three main demands. We shall
also reflect on whether this phenomenon could spread to other monarchical
countries around the region.

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