The largest public protest since the military took power in a 2014 coup took place on Sunday with over 10,000 people demanding the resignation of the Prayut Chan-ocha government.
For the past two months, student-led protests have engulfed the nation with rallies carried out from the country’s Deep South all the way to the northern provinces.
While the students and protesters are united in their condemnation of the current government and the military-involvement in politics, the protest movement has become an umbrella for a variety of other progressive causes that demonstrators say must be addressed by Thai society.
Sunday’s protest was a showcase for some of these causes, with student-leaders allowing speakers to address them on stage.
Deep South and Self Determination
Among the issues brought up by the speakers on stage was the right for the people of Thailand’s Muslim-majority Deep South to self determination.
The speaker noted that while many Thais were against the use of the emergency decree to control their movements and right to assembly in Bangkok over the past two months, the people of the three southern provinces have been living under an emergency decree for 16 years.
เราในฐานะคนใต้ที่อยู่ปัตตานีเหมือนกัน ดีใจมากที่อย่างน้อยๆมีคนสนใจว่าแท้จริงมันเป็นมายังไง ทำไมถึงไม่สงบสักที จนคนสามจังหวัดรู้สึกชินชากับมัน โดยไม่รู้สึกกลัว แม้ว่าพื้นที่นั่นจะเป็นพื้นที่ทีเขายิงกันหรือระเบิดก็ตาม (ต่อ)— sun✿🐯🐣✿happy🖤 (@nrsbnrd) August 16, 2020
The on stage presence of speakers from Pattani was something rarely seen in Thai political rallies and part of the southern provinces’ political awakening with many Muslim, Pattani-based, student leaders telling Thai Enquirer that the growth of the progressive movement in the country inspiring them to start their own political movements.
(For more on the movement and how the south sees Thailand, read here)
Several speakers on Sunday also touched on Thailand’s abortion laws and its adverse affect on women’s reproductive health.
While the majority of parliamentarians have been receptive to reform of the country’s abortion laws, a vocal, religious minority have blocked any meaningful change.
Speakers on Sunday said that the situation has evolved and that the country’s criminalization of abortion means that women seeking abortion are placed in even greater danger instead of being afforded healthcare and legal treatment.
Among one of the communities to embrace the student movement since the beginning, the LGBT community in Thailand have fought for many years for marriage equality and gender representation.
LGBT speakers on Sunday said that the government played a part in dissolving the first pro-LGBT party in Future Forward. The LGBT community also said it opposed a government-advocated civil union law, saying that it is not progressive enough and will likely hinder the communities’ long term goal of marriage equality.