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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

#GlobalLiberation ✊ People Power in Thailand


⛓️Thais have long been taught to have pride for being ‘ไทย’ (Thai, which means ‘free’). Mainstream narratives (via media and education) teach Thais a strong sense of nationalism, loyalty to the establishment (including the monarchy, religion, and state), and conformism to ‘Thainess.’ Though national identity and culture can be meaningful parts of the human experience, it is concerning when these narratives are weaponised against the people by the establishment to maintain a harmful, unjust status quo.

In particular, Thailand’s Section 112 lèse-majesté laws, as well as other vague laws with harsh punishments for violation, have had a suffocating grip on Thailand for many decades. The law is frequently weaponised to inhibit the People’s freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, by punishing anyone who allegedly defames, insults or threatens the establishment. Often, these allegations are not based in reality; either way, the punishment often outweighs the severity of alleged ‘crimes.’ TLHR reports that at least 272 individuals, in 303 cases, have been charged thus far in 2024, a stark reminder of the State’s active attempts to quell People’s movements. 

Section 112 has also been particularly weaponised against progressive politicians. In Thailand’s 2023 elections, the Senate blocked progressive candidate Pita Limjaroenrat from becoming PM, despite winning the People’s vote, all because he and his Party,  Move Forward Party (MFP), campaigned on goals of reforming Section 112. Further, in March 2024, the Thai Election Commission declared they would seek the dissolution of MFP - and just this Monday (27 May, 2024) the State also sentenced MFP MP Lookkate Jangrew to 2 years imprisonment for Section 112 charges. 

Did you know Thailand has had 13 successful coups, and at least 30 coup attempts? That’s a lot of coups, for a nation that has only been a “constitutional democracy” for less than 100 years. No matter how military dictators and opportunistic politicians might justify them, coups are against the “democratic” values that the Thai establishment claims to uphold. Every single one of Thailand’s coups forms part of a broader pattern of establishment behaviour.


  • Used to sabotage democratically-elected governments

  • Used to crush People’s Movements

  • Justified as a means of ‘restoring order’

  • Weaponise ‘Thainess’ as psychological warfare against dissidents

  • Military-led

  • Backed by the US (CIA) and other global imperial forces taking advantage of Thailand’s historically ‘strategic’ position in Southeast Asia to assert influence in the region


  • Fighting economic and geopolitical imperialism 

  • Addressing the monarchy’s role in Thai society, and abolishing the draconian Section 112 law

  • Addressing socioeconomic inequities

  • Women’s, LGBTQIA+, and disability justice

  • Stopping dictatorship (including digital dictatorship) 

  • Indigenous rights and tribal sovereignty


In 1973, frustrated with the tyranny of Thai military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn, the People came together and successfully forced him into exile. However, Thanom returned in 1976, with impunity, compelling the people to launch another nationwide wave of protests, including the Thammasat Student Uprising.

The Establishment

  • ...the Thanom military government 

  • ...state-backed Royal Thai police and military forces 

  • ...‘unofficial’ militias such as those of the Village Scouts, Nawaphon, and Red Gaurs who were recruited, backed, and trained by Thai and American state authorities. 

  • ...launched media censorship, dissident crackdowns, pro-establishment propaganda, and perpetrator forgiveness campaigns to quell further resistance.

The People

  • ...students, educators, and workers.

  • ...were shot, lynched, arrested and publicly shamed by the establishment. Many were killed. Official sources reported 47 deaths, though eyewitnesses estimated at least 100+. (Puey Ungphakorn).

  • ...arrested in their thousands, on the grounds of vague ‘communist’ incitement and lèse-majesté accusations.


In the words of 1976 massacre survivor and Thai historian Thongchai Winichakul in light of the 2020-2021 protests, “Society won't stop, change won't stop. The only thing we can do is to take care that the change takes place with as little bloodshed as possible.” The 2020-2021 student movement showed that the Movement of 1976 never really ended. History was ‘unforgotten,’ lessons were learned, and the spirit of the 1976 resistance was kept alive by the resistance of the present day.

The Establishment

  • ...the Prayuth administration and Thailand’s political elite

  • ...Royal Thai Police and Military forces, using military-grade equipment against demonstrators.

  • ...monarchist/royalist, pro-establishment general population launched ‘counter protests,’ and smear campaigns to intimidate and antagonise the anti-establishment protestors

  • ...used surveillance technology to track opposition activities.

The People

  • ...students and other youth, educators, workers, and the general population. 

  • ...organised and mobilised in a decentralised manner, with various activist groups taking on different spheres of influence (e.g. Free Youth, Bad Students, Student Union of Thailand) over the course of 4 ‘waves’ of activism. 

  • ...used various creative protest strategies (see next slide). 

  • ...were subject to intense establishment- administered brutality (e.g. shot with rubber bullets, tear gassed, etc.)

In 2024, we see how the 2020-2021 uprising has shifted into a new chapter. We recently witnessed the unjust arrests of activists like Tawan and Bung, and their valiant hunger strikes in protest. We saw, especially through Bung’s recent passing, how these fearless young activists were willing to risk their lives for their cause. They remind us of how much work has yet to be done, and inspire us every day.

Movement resistance tactics

  • Decentralised leadership movement led by coalitions/groups, not just one leader #EverybodyIsALeader.

  • Civil disobedience, e.g. at rallies.

  • Extreme protest, e.g. hunger strikes.

  • Protest safety (e.g. using codes, shields).

  • Utilising E2EE messaging platforms with no known government ties, e.g. Telegram.

Some examples of movement-defining symbols and landmarks 

  • The Milk Tea Alliance (MTA) is a coalition of Global South nations with anti-establishment movements, including Thailand as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Belarus, and Iran. The movement was named because of these nations’ shared tea drinking cultures; Milk Tea has thus become a powerful, touching symbol of solidarity between them.

  • Located on Ratchadamnoen Avenue of Bangkok, the ‘Democracy’ Monument has long held strong cultural and political significance to Thais. Resistance movements throughout Thai history have repeatedly pointed out the hypocrisy of having a grand monument representing the nation’s democracy, when democracy does not exist in practice. It has thus become an iconic gathering place for protests and making political statements.

  • The use of popular culture was one of the defining factors of the Thai youth organisers. Using symbols that were already widely recognised and culturally significant allowed them to quickly and efficiently appeal to various demographics. These included the Three Finger (Hunger Games) salute, rubber ducks (used as shields against tear gas and water cannons), as well as the symbol of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement (that the Thai organisers drew a lot of strategy from, and were in strong solidarity with).

Solidarity actions:

  • Follow Thai activists, activist organisations, artists, and educators, to learn about their work and show solidarity:

  • @gazsolidarity on Instagram

  • @thaluwang on Instagram

  • @mokeluang.ig on Instagram

  • @thalufah_official

  • @youngprideclub

  • @ilawclub



  • Always think critically about the news and information sources you consume (including ours!). Be wary especially when consuming information created with heavy input from powerful political stakeholders and state authorities. 

  • Keep an open mind when consuming news. Many truths can exist at once. It is important to lead with empathy for humanity, and be flexible with our perspectives. Nobody is exempt from  accountability for our actions and thoughts. 

  • When activists call us to action, we must show up! We need solidarity and direct action more than ever. #PeoplePower means that the People must all organise, mobilise, and stand together.



#WeAreManushyan ♾️ Equal Human Beings 


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