If future generations feel no obligation to respect, “it’s just a question of when”

Thailand Politics Protest

The American online magazine “The Diplomat” said the most striking thing about the current anti-government movement has been its willingness to identify the monarchy as the central question in Thai politics, and demand that it be placed under constitutional control.

The Diplomat is an international online news agency based in Washington D.C., covering politics, society and culture in the Asia-Pacific region.

The article based on an interview with the director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen, Duncan McCargo, who is a longtime observer of Thai politics.

McCargo said the 2016 royal transition opened up the monarchical institution to much greater scrutiny than before, yet the recent critical turn of the student movement concerning the monarchy has taken most of the people by surprise.

The student protests were not initially focused on the royal institution, but on calls for constitutional change. The royal reform theme began only with the 10 demands announced on 10 August at Thammasat University, by what was then a radical element of the student movement.

McCargo said that the issue made popular by the way young people under 25 – Generation Z, or digital natives – can access information online from sources all over the world.

“They can easily find out about previously taboo subjects such as the October 6, 1976 massacre or the extent of kingly wealth. Simply put, the new generation of Thais does not feel bound by older notions of deference or hierarchy, and are bold enough to say whatever is on their minds,” Said McCargo.

McCargo analyzed that the problem with the ongoing protests is that there is an absence of a clear sense of what might replace the current Thai political order, and it is hard to see how the students can achieve their goals. “Everyone can agree on what they don’t like – but what do they want instead? And how can a “leaderless” movement negotiate with those in power?”

However, McCargo think these young protesters have time on their side. He said they might face some setbacks in the short term.

“…but if future generations of Thais feel no obligation to respect kings, generals and other elderly men, it’s not a matter of whether or not the existing power structures start to give way: it’s just a question of when.”

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