Repression of monarchy reformists

20 11 2022

DW recently had a story that sought to assess where the democracy/monarchy reform movement is more than two years after the movement spectacularly burst on the scene.

In essence, the story is that the monarchy reform movement has been so repressed that it is difficult for activists to engage in political advocacy.

Clipped from Prachatai

The youth-led protest movement, “calling for constitutional reforms to rein in far-reaching powers of the country’s monarchy” and for the resignation of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, “inspired hundreds of thousands of people across Thailand…”.

But, over two years later, the military-backed, pro-monarchy regime has managed to silence many and drain the movement of energy.

The repression that has dogged activists has resulted in lese majeste charges in the hundreds, long jail terms for some, and the development of a surveillance state that weighs China-like on anyone deemed a “threat.” The regime increasingly relies on cyber snoops and ultra-royalists, many of them with links to the military and ISOC, to bring complaints that result in charges, arrest, and detention.

Arnon. Clipped from Prachatai

For example, human rights lawyer and activist Arnon Nampa, faces at least 14 lese majeste charges, and was detained for more than 200 days without bail. Other activists are kept busy fighting a myriad of charges.

Democracy activist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon explains: “Many of our friends are still detained…. Some have been held for more than 200 days.” As DW has it, “there are [now] at least 11 political detainees, including three on lese majeste cases.”

Patsaravalee reckons “the government had made people ‘numb and accustomed’ to protesters being detained.”

Even when bailed, there are sometimes ludicrous conditions that amount to house arrest, “along with a hefty bond and vague conditions that limit their freedom of expression and movement.” For example, Arnon “is prohibited by court order from encouraging others to protest and is not allowed to share posts on social media about demonstrations.”

Activist Chonthicha Jaengrew said “these conditions forced people into self-censorship, as ‘even voicing opinions in good faith could put us at risk of our bail being revoked’.”

Chonthicha said such “bail conditions had blunted the protest movement.” As she explained: “We don’t know when these conditions will be used as a tool to revoke our bail, which forces us to be more careful [in our speeches and actions]…”.

Several activists have fled Thailand.

But it is not all a gloomy story. Clearly, the discussion of the monarchy is now more widespread, and activists know that there has been a groundswell of broad support. Arnon thinls “more politicians in the future would be emboldened to question the Thai monarchy.” As he observes: “Discussing the monarchy has caught on…. We might not see a radical change like a revolution … but one thing is for sure: Thai society will not backtrack.”


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