The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is struggling to deal with tech-savvy youth-led anti-government protesters. The anti-government protesters make the most use of information and communication technologies and social media platforms. They are a major tool in their demonstration anti-government campaign, academics and former protest leaders said.
They also raised concern about possible confrontations between anti-government protesters and pro-monarchy groups who are coming out to counter their demands for monarchy reforms.
The demonstrations led by Khana Ratsadorn (People’s Group) are unique and different from previous protests. Above all because social media platforms are being used as a tool to mobilize protesters in a short time which can pile up pressure on the government. Furthermore there are no “visible” anti-government protest leaders controlling them.
This is because several co-leaders of the group were arrested and faced multiple charges, leaving the movement leaderless. Anti-government protesters are also pressing very hard for their demands. Their demands include a charter rewrite; monarchy reform; and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Tensions have now mounted as yellow-clad groups of royalist have appeared in Bangkok and several provinces. They are voicing opposition to the call for monarchy reform, raising concerns about possible clashes.
Anti-Government Protesters inspired by online games
Mana Treelayapewat, deputy rector of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, told the Bangkok Post that those who take part in the anti-government demonstrations are largely digital natives who have grown up in the digital age and have the ability to use information and communication technologies and have their own technical jargon and secret codes to communicate with each other.
It is similar to when young people take part in school sport day activities or when they attend concerts, Mr Mana said.
“When they gather for demonstrations or disperse, they can communicate with each other and vote via social media. It is a two-way communication, which appeals to this generation,” he said.
He said any demonstration must always have leaders, though it depends on what form they take.
The demonstrations see many different co-leaders making a wide range of demands, compared to past demonstrations which were managed by a single group of protest leaders. When they were arrested by authorities, this spelled trouble for their movement, Mr Mana said.
However, the current anti-government movement is similar to online games because when a group of protest leaders were arrested, another group emerged to carry on and they are linked by using social media, Mr Mana said.
”Their war rooms are unconventional. It is similar to playing online games. There are many war rooms both online and offline,” he said.
Anti-government protest leaders denied bail
Meanwhile, Thailand’s Court of Appeal on Saturday denied bail for three young leaders of the anti-government protest movement: Panupong “Mike” Jadnok; Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak; and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul.
The court upheld a lower court ruling to deny the temporary release of Mr Panupong. The ruling was read out at the Criminal Court on Saturday.
Mr Panupong, known as “Mike Rayong” was charged with inciting unrest or sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code. He also faces charges of violating the Act on Ancient Monuments, Antiques, Objects of Art and National Museums. Also violating Sections 116 and 215 for his role in installing a new plaque to symbolize people’s power at Sanam Luang on Sept 19.
The first and original plaque that marked the 1932 Revolution that overthrew the absolute monarchy. It was planted on the ground of the Royal Plaza. It was removed without explanation in 2017.
The Court of Appeal in Bangkok on Saturday also ruled on a police request to detain Mr Parit and Ms Panusaya, leading members of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration. The two Thammasat University students have been charged with inciting unrest or sedition under Section 116 and face other charges for their roles in the Sept 19 rally at Sanam Luang. The Criminal Court on Wednesday had rejected bail for the pair and they were taken to Bangkok Remand Prison.