Thailand Current Political Situation Part I
Does King Vajiralongkorn from Germany rule?
After the use of water cannons and pepper spray against demonstrators by the Thai police on November 17th, questions about the behavior of the Thai king in Germany are getting louder. King Vajiralongkorn, who is also associated with the disappearances and executions of opponents of the regime, spends most of his time in Germany, where he owns a villa on Lake Starnberg, among other things. At the end of October, thousands of demonstrators in front of the German embassy in Bangkok demanded an investigation into the monarch’s work from Germany. Foreign minister Heiko Maas made it clear that it is illegal to conduct state business from Germany. But inquiries from MPs Margarete Bause (Die Grünen) and Sevim Dagdalen (Die Linke) have shown that there is so far no evidence of illegal behavior on the part of Vajiralongkorn. Die Linke is calling for the king to be expelled from Germany because he is responsible for the violent crackdown on the democracy movement. But a report by the Scientific Services of the Bundestag prepared on their behalf shows that the possibilities of taking action against the king in Germany are extremely small.
A new democracy movement
After the student protests subsided in February due to the corona measures, tens of thousands have been taking to the streets again since August 2020. The new protests are being led by youth, both students and school pupils. The most important demands are the so-called “three demands” for an end to the repression and the murder of dissidents, a dissolution of parliament with new elections and a new constitution. Many Thais support these demands. Then there are the so-called “Ten Demands”, which call for a comprehensive reform of the monarchy in great detail. Such an explicit criticism of the monarchy is new, but expresses a widespread mood, because the new king does not have the same support among the population as the late Bhumibol. So the monarchists have not yet succeeded in organizing any counter-mobilization worth mentioning. Protests take place in a decentralized, self-organized manner and everywhere, not just in Bangkok. The Student Federation of Thailand takes an active role. Its chairman, Jutatip Sirikhan, known for an action in which she showered herself with paint, has been pressured by the police and the military for weeks and repeatedly summoned. Another prominent student, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul,has become known for its explicit criticism of the monarchy. In contrast to the polarization between red and yellow shirts, young people manage to gather many different groups behind them. Schoolchildren also become active, which is extraordinary for Thailand. Groups like the so-called “Bad Students” dare to take action against the authoritarian structures in schools and to join the protests despite repression. The movement is picking up speed overall. On September 19, 2020, the anniversary of the 2006 coup, there were major protests across the country. The next major demonstrations are scheduled for October 14th – the day the students of Thailand in 1973 have overthrown a military dictatorship before.
The new student protests
In reaction to the ban on the New Future Party, a new student movement is emerging. In central and prestigious universities such as Bangkok, the Chulalongkorn University, Thammasat, Kasetsat or Mahidol have hundreds and thousands gathered. But also in the provincial universities the students get up. They not only protest against the ban on the opposition party, which is particularly popular among young people, but also generally against the influence of the military and for democracy. The use of the forbidden “three-finger symbol” is symbolically interesting from the movie “Hunger Games”. In the dystopian science fiction trilogy, the symbol stands for the consistent attitude and readiness of the oppressed masses of workers against a corrupt and cruel elite. With that in mind, it has become a sign of resistance since the 2014 coup in Thailand. Student protests are of great social importance in Thailand because of history. In 1973 the students successfully initiated a mass movement for democracy. The suppression of the movement and the murder of many students at Thammasat University October 1976 marks an important turning point in the country’s history. Leading activists from the time are called “Octoberists” and some of them are still respected intellectuals today. The behavior of the king, who amused himself with a harem in a hotel in Germany in the face of the corona virus, encourages an increasing anti-monarchist mood among young Thai people.
New future party banned
The Thai Constitutional Court has banned the New Future Party. The party is perhaps the most important opposition party, which received almost six million votes in the 2019 elections and is particularly popular with young people. The official justification for the ban is a party donation from party founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who had loaned over 5 million euros to his party. However, the Constitutional Court is known for making political judgments in favor of the military and the monarchy. The decision is therefore seen by many as a relapse into authoritarianism. The ban has started a new waveled student protests against the military regime.