Class, gender, protest

20 07 2021

Eurasia ReviewIf readers haven’t already seen them, we suggest reading to recent articles at Eurasia Review, considering aspects of class and gender in Thailand in an era of virus and political protest. They are relatively long articles, so we just preview them here.

Eurasia Review’s Murray Hunter observes:

Thailand’s class divisions have dramatically widened during the Covid-19 pandemic. With students returning to the streets in protest, even with tight crowd restrictions in place, after a three-month hiatus during the pandemic, the Prayuth Chan-ocha regime is faltering in public support and perceived competence to handle a dramatic linear increase in case numbers.

He adds that:

With the prime minister and his entourage seen not obeying rules to wear masks at all times during the opening of the Phuket “sandbox”, on July 1, a scheme to bring back foreign tourists to Thailand, the covid pandemic has become the symbol of a great class divide.

Unemployment, poverty and inequality have all increased. Double standards are common:

The Prayuth government has attempted to balance economic considerations and public health in making decisions about restrictions. Large manufacturing concerns have not been under any restrictions during the pandemic, even though small and service businesses have been restricted, with many ordered to close, last year for a number of months on end. Many provincial hotels were forced to shutdown for months, with many never reopening….

The escalating pandemic in Thailand has focused attention of the double standards applicable to the elite in society and the others. This has been very evident in the vaccine rollout. The elite and privileged have been able to secure a vaccination before many of the vulnerable in society. While people have been suffering, the grounds and infrastructure of the [king’s] grand palace complex in central Bangkok has been enlarged, to become a city within a city.

The result of all of this is that “Thailand is now in a much deeper era of class division, where the poor have become poorer, over the duration of the pandemic.”

The Eurasia Review’s other piece is on feminism and protest in Thailand, authored by Wichuta Teeratanabodee. She notes that the criticism of royalism “has set this group of protestors apart from its predecessors.” It is a “youth movement” and a “network of many groups — including feminists, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and environmental activists in addition to students.” Wichuta observes:

The conspicuous roles of young women in this ongoing wave of protests have put them in the spotlight…. Unlike in previous rallies, which were often led by males, women are now taking on leadership roles to call for democracy. Simultaneously, they have shared stories of women’s struggles in Thai society, focusing particularly on women’s status in politics — which has worsened markedly since the 2014 coup…. [F]eminists in the pro-democracy protests see themselves fighting a two-front war. On one front they demand democracy and an end to the current authoritarian regime, and on another, they fight for gender equality against fellow pro-democracy protestors who do not support feminist objectives….

Feminist and non-feminist protestors in today’s Thailand have a common enemy – the authoritarian regime, which — one prominent activist scholar contends —  has shown “no signs of …willingness to negotiate with democracy”….

We recommend both articles.


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