Thailand’s pro-democracy protest movement captured the imagination of the country and the world when they stood in defiance against the country’s military-backed rulers.
For two years, the movement has offered an alternative path for the country, one where pluralism and free thought are intrinsic to the fabric of Thainess.
For their efforts, they were chased off the streets by police, arrested, detained, and jailed by the government.
It is no secret that the movement has lost momentum over the past six months. When the majority of your leaders are jailed and street violence has become the norm, it is only natural that the enthusiasm gets dampened.
But the pandemic and the lull in political activity in the early part of 2022 may be a blessing in disguise for the movement.
The military-backed government of General Prayut Chan-ocha continues to poorly manage both Covid-19 and the economy. Sentiment against the government continues to be low.
It is time for the remaining leaders of the moment to take stock and perhaps learn from the mistakes of their jailed predecessors.
The opportunity is there to increase pressure on the government but if the movement falls back into familiar rhetoric concerning the royal institution then support will continue to be found wanting.
Not because sentiment is not on their side but many people are unwilling to touch on a topic that is dangerous and irrelevant to their current suffering.
Instead, what the leaders of the movement must do is unite the disparate groups that have grievances against the government. And there are many.
Farmers, tourist operators, environmentalists, disaffected communities, anti-corruption warriors, pro-democracy allies, they all have a bone to pick with the current administration.
Rather than focus on an esoteric topic, it is time to focus on issues that matter to everyday common people like the economy, the out of control cost of living, and the rising unemployment rates.
Hit these notes and support will return. The new leaders of the movement may also want to ask themselves whether the time is ripe for street protests or whether is now the right time to throw their support to the opposition parties and help them campaign and increase visibility in what is increasingly likely to be an election year.
The pro-democracy movement is not dead but they certainly need to rethink their tactics and figure out what is the best course of action going forward.