Following the largest anti-government protest since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country, student leaders said on Monday that they were ready to hold continuous rallies until the government listened to their demands or resign.
The rallies this weekend in Bangkok and around the country drew in thousands of people as protesters demanded that the military-backed government resign and/or re-draft a constitution which gives the army the ability to appoint the entire 250-member upper house of parliament.
The hashtag ให้มันจบที่รุ่นเรา (end it during our generation) went viral over the weekend and had reached 1.71 million tweets as of Monday morning. Students and protesters used the rallying cry to call for an end to the coup-cycle which has seen more than a dozen military governments rule the country since it transitioned to a democracy in 1932.
The latest coup, in 2014, led by Prayut Chan-ocha and Prawit Wongsuwan, has ruled the country through direct military rule or a government proxy for over half a decade.
The long haul
Student leaders, talking to Thai Enquirer, said that despite the odds stacked against them, they were willing to continue the rallies to end the military’s influence in politics.
“I understand the sentiment and strong feelings of my generation, it is this notion that we do not want future generations to suffer what this country is going through,” said Sirin Mungcharoen, a student leader from Chulalongkorn University. “I have seen so much injustice done by the military government and I am only years old.”
Sirin said that for people of her generation, all they’ve ever known is the military government. They have never grown up in a democratic system.
“I don’t want younger people to see Thailand as somewhere they don’t want to call hope,” she said.
Bunkueanun Paothong, a student-leader from Mahidol University, agreed with Sirin and said that students see a fundamental need for change in the status quo.
“We are willing to do whatever is possible to end this cycle in our lifetime,” he told Thai Enquirer.
Bunkueanun, or Francis as he is known to his friends, said that previous generations have had the same fight and have failed to stop the cycle of military rule, now his generation were willing to do whatever it takes to end the cycle.
The students will not have an easy task in dismantling the military’s hold on power.
Outside of the current constitution which not only enshrines military rule but enhances it, the military has also installed itself as the defender of traditional Thai values and Thai conservatism.
In October of last year, Army Chief Apirat Kongsompong blasted pro-democracy politicians and “leftist” as trying to undermine the country and destroy Thailand’s institutions.
“Do you want those politicians, academics, or businessmen born with a silver spoon in their mouths; who never face any hardships in their lives; do you want these leftists to rule over you?” he said at the time.
Apirat ended his tirade by linking all the opposition politicians and the students to communists in the 1970s and all but declared them an existential threat to the nation.