‘Let’s move countries’ trends on Twitter as netizens criticize government mismanagement

The hashtag #ย้ายประเทศกันเถอะ (Let’s move countries) trended on Twitter and other social media on Monday morning after a restless night that saw security forces clash with unarmed protesters.

Netizens used the hashtag over 224,000 times to criticize both the government’s heavy-handed response to protests and its ongoing incompetence in managing the coronavirus pandemic.

Among criticism aimed at the Prayut Chan-ocha administration was its denial of bail for student-protest leaders for organizing and leading peaceful anti-government protests.

One protest leader, Parit Chiwarak, had to be hospitalized after a month on hunger strike against his bail condition.

Others used the hashtag to point out how Thailand has been surpassed by regional neighbours in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Messages circulating on the Social Media Application LINE also used the hashtag to point out that neighbouring Laos, long used as a derogatory, racist insult for lack of development, had surpassed Thailand in vaccinating its citizens.

The Twitter hashtag seems to have been inspired by a Facebook group, created just a few days prior, but already with 200,000 members.

The group has a message board where people post both Covid-19 grievances against the government and the government’s ongoing repression of civil rights and liberty.

The Prayut administration is currently prosecuting over 100, mostly student, activists for leading anti-government rallies in 2020. Many of them have been charged with a draconian Lese Majeste law which is in place to protect against insult to the monarch or his immediate family. Protesters have called for the reform of the royal institution to bring it more in line with modern sensibilities.

The Prayut administration is also responsible for the current wave of the pandemic which has seen tens of thousands of people infected since the beginning of April. The wave started in entertainment districts in the capital with one cabinet minister allegedly participating. He subsequently refusing to share his timeline. The government has also not been able to expedite its vaccine acquisition program and has stopped the private sector from acquiring them as well leaving the population vulnerable.

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