From the Viewsroom

Unrest in Thailand

Paran Balakrishnan | Updated on September 27, 2020 Published on September 27, 2020

Student protesters are risking prison terms for a better future

Thailand’s in turmoil once again with the army on the backfoot against protesters pushing for a new constitution and slashing the monarchy and the military’s powers. The protests are being led by students who see few job prospects because of the slowing economy, exacerbated by Covid-19 which has devastated the tourism industry. Also, Thais are incensed by the antics of King Vajiralongkorn, crowned last year, who had the law changed so he can live abroad in Munich most of the time with his wife, consort and large entourage. In one of his most eccentric moves, he made his dog a field marshal. He has also seized control of the monarchy’s fortune worth $30-70 billion while the military changed the constitution so it could nominate 75 per cent of parliament’s upper house. For years, Thailand’s tough laws have prevented protests but now it appears many students are willing to risk 15-year prison terms to make their voices heard. “If we want to have a better life, there must be good politics,” said 21-year-old Panusaya Sithijirawattankul, better known as “Rung,” one of the demonstrations’ main faces.

When the military seized power in 2014, many Western countries and the US distanced themselves from the new regime and China quickly moved into the vacuum. Now the students are blaming China for everything, from Covid-19 to the poor economy. To mollify the protesters, the government cancelled a contract to buy Chinese submarines and announced the ambitious Kra Canal project is unlikely to happen, an important development for India as it would have opened a second, faster sea route from China to the Indian Ocean. India’s always enjoyed cordial relations with Thailand. Besides, we’ve ancient links, demonstrated by the king’s other name Rama X. Additionally, there’s the Buddhist factor which draws many devotees. At a different level, Bangkok’s bright lights have attracted many that Indian police and intelligence agencies would like to talk to: Khalistanis, Nagas and Ulfa members. And it’s also a hawala dealing centre. Thailand’s always been politically volatile with revolving-door governments since the 1932 absolute monarchy overthrow. A peaceful outcome that leads to a shift in Thailand’s pro-China tilt would be welcome from Delhi’s standpoint.

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on September 27, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor