Opinion: If Thailand is the first democratic domino then Laos may be the next

The fight for democracy in Thailand is having a spillover effect in Laos causing a Twitter hashtag trend and inspiring Laotians to question the governance in the landlocked, communist country.

As Thailand was inspired by Hong Kong and Taiwan, so it seems, Laos has been inspired by Thailand – a country it has close historical and linguistic ties to.

Laotian people enjoy Thai dramas, listen to Thai music and many come to work in Thailand. Thais may not be aware by Laotians have long monitored political developments in Thailand and are also affected by governmental decisions in Bangkok especially policy concerning remittance and migrant work.

While Thais may think that we have it bad with autocracy and coup-governments, Laotians have it so much worse in a system with little checks and balances and a scarcity of human rights.

We should see our struggle against autocracy in Thailand not as something to inspire Laotians but part of the same fight against authoritarianism – just as we see the fight against autocracy in Hong Kong, Belarus, Chile, and Taiwan as our own. The Milk Tea Alliance is not just about supporting one another but recognizing the global fight for democracy and pluralism.

In Laos, there are plenty of courageous people who fight for rights and for accountability like Muay Huai Huong Xayabuli who came out against a government plan for a dam. She was jailed for more than five years for speaking up for local communites against the government’s encroachement and the influence of China.

Lao’s lack of freedom has made Thailand a sometime refuge for dissidents and people seeking a better life. But Thailand’s government under Prayut Chan-ocha has sent back dissidents and activists. Laotian activists living in Thailand have been disappeared or killed including Od Sayavong who died despite being registered as a refugee with the United Nations. The Thai government has turned a blind eye to these kilings. The Prayut government has also made it harder for Laotians to cross the border and find work.

It proves once and for all that dictators work together.

Decades ago, the United States intervened in this region to disastrous effect, worried that if one country fell to communism a domino effect would place the entire region under communist rule.

It proved to be false and to the detriment of the people living in South East Asia.

However, a new domino effect is occuring, not inspired by American meddling, but inspired by the dreams and aspirations of all people to be free. If Thailand, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are the first dominos on the path to democratization and pluralism and Laos the next country on that path, then moreso the better.

By Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and Cod Satrusayang

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