The government of Thailand declared a state of emergency in their capital last night. It was caused by what’s being described as a student-led protest against the current administration and the monarchy. Riot police were called out and arrests were made. Is this starting so sound familiar to those of you who keep track of the news from America’s large cities these days?
Well, before you get too excited, the way students in Thailand “protest” is a far cry from what BLM and Antifa get up to in our urban centers. And the response from the government may also prove instructive. So what sort of mayhem were the protesters engaged in? A group of them “gathered” outside the Prime Minister’s offices to call for reforms. And the really shocking event came when a group of them “heckled a royal motorcade.” (Associated Press)
Thai authorities declared a strict new state of emergency for the capital on Thursday, a day after a student-led protest against the country’s traditional establishment saw an extraordinary moment in which demonstrators heckled a royal motorcade.
After the pre-dawn declaration, riot police moved in to clear out demonstrators who after a day of rallies and confrontation had gathered outside Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s office to push their demands, which include the former general’s stepping down, constitutional changes and reform of the monarchy…
The text of the emergency declaration said it was needed because “certain groups of perpetrators intended to instigate an untoward incident and movement in the Bangkok area by way of various methods and via different channels, including causing obstruction to the royal motorcade.”
The wording of that emergency declaration certainly leaves much to be desired. They’re accusing “certain groups of perpetrators” of launching an “untoward incident” in the capital using “various methods and different channels.” That could mean pretty much anything, couldn’t it? As far as the “obstruction” of the royal motorcade goes, it doesn’t sound as if they were obstructed much at all. In reality, what the protesters did to get themselves in trouble was to fail to sit, kneel or lay prone on the pavement while the royals passed by. A couple of them allegedly made “rude gestures” and “heckled” the monarchs.
Seriously? That’s what constitutes an emergency in your country? Come hang out in Minneapolis or Chicago for a few nights. You’ll be pining for the good old days when “heckling” was the worst you had to worry about.
The government takes all of this seriously, though. You can get fifteen years in prison for insulting or even questioning the role of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his royal court or family members. One of the protest leaders was arrested and managed to fire off a brief social media post saying he was being taken by helicopter to “a northern city” and had been denied access to an attorney. Then he fell silent online. As part of the emergency order, Thailand will now ban public gatherings of more than five people. Any overt criticism of either the monarchy or the civilian government will result in arrests and possible imprisonment.
I haven’t been to Thailand in nearly forty years and while I was there, I’ll confess that I never made it far outside of the Pattaya Beach area. Being a young sailor out on liberty at the time, I don’t remember much of the experience. But I do seem to recall it being a very “orderly” nation where roughhousing of any kind was frowned upon. They take their law and order seriously there. I’m not sure how far these protest groups will get in their efforts, but they had best be prepared to make some sacrifices for the cause. Their government doesn’t mess around.