Wichit Chaitrong, Editor, in The Nation (August 3, 2020)
Summary of Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Prachatai)
Ongoing youth-led protests have wide implications for the country and it has left many, especially those from the old generation, shocked. It may have been triggered by politics, but as the pro-democracy protests evolve, it has expanded to also impact the core values of Thai society.
By expressing their opinion about the role of the monarchy, the protests have touched on a sensitive issue, which has always been a taboo. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong have expressed concern about the dangers of slandering the highest institution. After the 2014 coup, the military-backed government promoted 12 core values for citizens, largely instructing people to follow the rule of authority, uphold traditional institutions and what is perceived as Thai culture. Liberals criticized the 12 values as a tool to brainwash people or an attempt to drag Thai society into the deep past.
Now, the political tide has turned, and the military's attempt to promote their 12 values has failed. Even schoolchildren are questioning school discipline on hairstyle, opposing traditional values that pupils must respect teachers. University students have raised questions about how the country is run, opposing the value of showing respect to traditional institutions.
Reacting to student campaign for a change, royalists organized a protest on July 30, claiming that their action was aimed at protecting the monarchy threatened by student protests. Observers said most of participants in the royalist gathering were senior people, contradicting the organizers' claim of vocational students rallying.
Where will this clash of values lead the country? “Traditionalists or the conservatives have encroached too much on the space of the liberals,” said Gothom Arya, adviser to Mahidol University's Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies. They should step back and open space for everyone, by “rewriting the Constitution”, he suggested.