Opinion: Is Thailand’s new political awakening coming too late?

Prayut’s announcement on June 16 that he would reopen the country within 120 days was subjected to much ridicule and skepticism.

Not only was the target highly unrealistic, with rising infection numbers and the country unable to secure the 120 million doses of vaccines it needs for her immunity, it also became the strongest piece of evidence that the government was out of touch in combating the pandemic and economic crisis.

As covid-19 cases continue to surge after Delta variant was first discovered at Lak Si construction site, Thailand’s livelihood and economic well-being has taken a nose dive with no apparent hope in sight.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that more and more people are publicly voicing their discontent, including celebrities and television personalities that tend to be politically-shy. It is a watershed moment for Thai politics as an overwhelming portion of the society are no longer afraid or intimidated to remain silent but are straightforwardly criticizing the government for its incompetence.

However, did this political awakening come too late to do much good?

Thailand is still in its biggest crisis in modern history, even bigger than the one that started the 1997 Asian Economic Crisis. The news of people being left to die on the streets from unknown causes was unheard of until now.

A nurse recently committed suicide by jumping off of a building over fear of infecting her newborn baby with Covid-19. A couple in Chonburi recently hung themselves over concerns of unpaid debts that were owed to loan sharks.

Meanwhile, millions of people have already lost their jobs with no safety net and solution in sight. If this is the cost of the country’s political awakening cost, it surely came at a great price.

Economic progress under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s leadership for the past 7 years has been uninspiring to say the least.

However, the effects of his government’s incompetence has never been more profound. Even before the pandemic, there was a lack of innovative and cutting edge jobs. Now in the midst of Covid-19 infections, the country lacks jobs almost entirely. 

Dreams of new graduates of becoming financially independent or contributing to their family’s income are in ruins as businesses across the country halt all hirings as they struggle to stay afloat.

Millennials and Gen-Ys, many of whom are just starting out their families, see their hope of steady career development and financial stability under severe threat if not lost already. Many Gen-X’s and Boomers are forced into early retirements with little to no prospect of finding another job.

If it is pain and suffering that we seek to save Thailand from, then it is apparent that it is too late – way too late. If it is the hope to salvage Thailand’s prospect of becoming a prosperous and developed economy in the short to medium term, then it is too late. If it is the goal to make this country a land of opportunity, then it is too late – as newly graduates will testify. We – as society, as a country – are paying the price for decades of passivity and ignorance.

We are getting what we deserve for betraying democracy in the pursuit of security.  

But while it might be too late to spare us from the pains and sufferings we are experiencing, it is never too late to start building a better country. It’s never too late to build a better future for the future generation that is to come. We have an obligation to do so. Let us be the last generation in this country to have to tolerate authoritarianism. Let the pain and anger be a scar and a reminder that a government that does not come from the people will never work for the people.

Let this be the beginning of a new Thailand, a country that emerges from the ashes.

A country that respects human rights, a country that cherishes diversity, a country that encourages political participation, a country of equality regardless of age or economic status, a country that respects and practices rule of law, a country that protects democracy, a country of hope.

But if it is a new beginning that we seek for this country, then the time is now for every single one of us to stand up against the ills of this land. The oppressors and their supporters must not have a place to stand in the new Thailand and must be brought to justice. And even though we know the path is dangerous, we will do so willingly because we know it is the right thing to do.

– Serichon

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