The RT or Restart Thailand logo was used in a communiqué by the Free Youth movement together with the language of labour, reminiscent of early 20th century Europe when communism emerged in Russia as an oppressive ruling force. The logo resembles the hammer and sickle which became a leitmotiv for this form of government around the world. The move will raise question marks over the true nature of the ‘progressive movement’ in Thailand which former Army Chief, General Apirat Kongsompong described as ‘communistic’ in its thinking in a controversial speech in October last year.
The Deputy Leader of the Democrat Party, Pinit Intarasombat, warned on Wednesday that the student led protest movement may end up choking off democracy in Thailand after a core element launched a provocative manifesto, last Sunday, with a hammer and sickle logo and raised the question of a republic in Thailand with the rhetoric of revolutionary struggle which ushered communism into early 20th century Russia and which was later aped by extreme left-wing groups in western countries notably in Europe during the 1960s and 1970s. The communiqué by the ‘Free Youth’ group has led to a government investigation to determine the ‘intent’ of those behind it. Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha has warned that any seditious activity would be dealt with decisively. He also rejected any suggestion of a republic as ‘impossible’ in Thailand.
A movement that formed the nucleus of this year’s student-led protests in Thailand has shocked senior officials and led to calls for an investigation after it revealed a new logo and agenda bearing a resemblance to the hammer and sickle which has a long association with communism and launched a call to action using the jargon of revolution this week.
‘This is a new movement with none of the same to awaken awareness of all oppressed labourers. Whether you are a student, an office employee, a housemaid, a security guard, farmers, civil servants, we are all the oppressed labourers,’ the group’s statement read.
Investigation ordered into the Free Youth group
Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha has asked legal advisers to examine the new logo and manifesto launched last Sunday by the Free Youth movement which bears a strong resemblance to imagery used by communist movements in the past not only in its imagery but the hyperbole used by the group.
The government leader stressed that he was, first of all, ordering an evaluation of the nature of the message to determine if it constituted illegal and potentially subversive activity.
Thailand is not a republic and it would be ‘impossible’ says PM as he orders probe into Free Youth group
He warned that authorities could take into account the ‘intent’ of political activists and if this was, indeed, a radical new posture.
He said that seditious activity would be dealt with robustly by the government in terms of the detection of all those involved and prosecution according to the full rigour of the law.
General Prayut made it clear that Thailand was not a republic and that any suggestion to the contrary was ‘impossible’ to even contemplate.
Student group have raised the issue of a republic
Free Youth, whose Secretary-General is Tatthep Ruangprapaikitseri, appeared to suggest strongly that Thais should consider the question of a republic as one of the options for the future of the country.
The group quoted Thomas Paine, one of the great political theorists and philosophers of the 18th century who inspired the American Revolution in 1765 when he said: ‘Since all men are born equal, no man could have the right to establish his family as forever presiding over others.’
It launched its manifesto on Sunday last and described itself as a ‘single-agenda movement’.
Democrat Party deputy leader chides protesters
The rhetoric used by Free Youth, last weekend, has drawn a muted, shocked, critical but somewhat light-hearted response from politicians and commentators in Thailand.
Deputy Democrat Party leader, Pinit Intarasombat, on Wednesday, noted that asylum seekers and those seeking freedom from oppression in the world do not seem to be seeking refuge in Communist China.
He noted that the young people of today appeared to be questioning democracy in Thailand and suggested that their actions and more radical protest activity such as this move, with a symbol associated with communism, might lead to democracy in Thailand being choked off.
No change, no progress after seven months
The protest movement has suspended its campaign, after this Thursday’s gathering, until the new year.
After seven months, they have achieved very little.
The Prime Minister, General Prayut, continuing to combat the coronavirus emergency and related economic headwinds, remains in office while the Thai parliament has rejected any meaningful reform of the 2017 constitution.
The movement’s calls for reform of the monarchy have been greeted with wariness by the public with opinion polls indicating no mood on the part of the general population to pursue such an agenda while increased visibility of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida, at this time of crisis, has generated more goodwill for the country’s highest institution.
MPs with the ruling Palang Pracharat Party, in government, have consistently questioned whether there is broad public support for the goals of the movement despite opinion polls which do consistently suggest that the public overwhelmingly supports the right of the young protesters to take to the streets.
Radical change in politics stateside may impact here
It now arises that a problem for the Thai government may be the radical change in the United States which could occur if President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20th next as appears highly likely.
US President Donald J Trump is still vehemently challenging the result, just days before the electoral college is due to meet on December 14th.
Many Trump supporters and those on the right of the now extremely polarised political landscape in America and among expats in Thailand, liken the radical progressive agenda being pursued there as a potential path towards communism adjusted for the modern interconnected world.
Incoming Vice President Kamala Harris, during the election, stated clearly that ‘equality of outcome’ must be the new goal of government and not just ‘equality of opportunity’.
This is a political message we have not heard before in America except among fringe left-wing thinkers.
Thai community in the US took to the streets to support the protest movement in Los Angeles
On October 27th last, protests were staged by the Thai community in Los Angeles, California, a staunchly Democratic Party stronghold and home to a large proportion of the growing and influential Thai diaspora in the United States.
They took to the streets of LA in support of the protest movement in Thailand.
The group, made up predominantly of young Thai Americans, calling itself ‘LA for Democracy in Thailand’ took to the streets with placards calling for the removal of Prayut Chan ocha and reform of the monarchy while making the three-fingered salute
It is widely reported by observers, including respected Thai academics, that Ms Harris could quickly become a dominant force in the new Biden administration which promises to be the most left-wing in US history.
A draft resolution, proposed last week, to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee by nine Democratic senators signalled a newfound interest in Thailand.
This has given rise to speculation that the kingdom, known as a bastion of conservatism, could become a target for a new left-leaning Democratic Party in the United States if it finds itself in power.
One of those who proposed last week’s resolution is Thai born Senator Tammy Duckworth from Illinois who is a growing presence in the Democratic Party stateside.
Charges and prosecutions under Section 112 continue to unfold across the kingdom against activists
Over the last week also, protest leaders have been visiting Thai police stations acknowledging charges brought against them with a catalogue of offences including offences under Section 112 for Lèse-majesté. The prosecution of the cases could well lead to convictions and long prison sentences. This could prove to be a critical factor in the ongoing struggle.
On Wednesday, key protest leaders Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul and Parit Chaiwarak or ‘Penguin’ acknowledged the latest charges against them under Section 112 for Lèse-majesté at the headquarters of the Technology Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok.
Mr Parit described the charges against him as political persecution.
The protest on Thursday brought down the curtain on this year’s street actions. However, the leaders were defiant and promised to renew and expand their campaign in the new year and on into 2021.