Protests in Thailand began in late Feb. 2020 over the dissolution of the Future Forward Party (FFP), which later transformed to unprecedented demands to reform the Thai monarchy. Even though the dissolution might have been the initial trigger for protests, the authoritarian political landscape and underlying societal problems ultimately led to the series of protests that have been happening.

Saranya Aphornsuvan is a psychology student at the University of Florida from Bangkok, Thailand.

Aphornsuvan described the causes of the protest as complex and complicated that were built up from many years. “Thailand has had a military dictatorship since 2014 and the election in 2019 was completely rigged.” After seven years of the military being in power, people were beginning to notice injustices as so many voices were being silenced from various forms of violence. Hence, they decided to protest.

“Being home last year, it was very hard and emotionally stressful in many points. There are a lot of innocent people being captured and arrested. It definitely takes a toll on humans.” There have been peaceful but also violent protests as public officers and protestors tend to crash with each other.

“I want to say that I don’t condone violence, but at the same time it’s such a cotton candy world to be like, let’s talk peacefully and not be violent towards each other at all,” said Aphornsuvan.

She also said that the protestors have never induced violence that is extremely harmful, and she condemns the violence caused by the government because their purpose should be to serve the people instead of attacking them.

“There is absolutely no justification for the government to be using violence. It’s definitely their way of instilling fear in citizens – to stop them from coming out. Nothing has really been working,” Aphornsuvan said.

Media has been playing a huge role over the time of the protests in different ways. On one side, these massive demonstrations would not be possible without the help of social media. “A lot of protestors communicate and plan out next protests through Twitter,” said Aphornsuvan. It also allows mobility during the protests as information spreads quickly.

On the other hand, it has created a divide between older and younger generations. The older generation tends to follow traditional news media, such as newspapers or televised news, while the younger generation follows mainly social media.

“The media is on the government side and they blame it on the protestors for the violent ones,” said Aphornsuvan. However, even though she mentioned that it is problematic that people absorb information from different outlets. The biggest problem is the difference in mentality between the two groups.

“My generation grew up questioning a lot of things, whereas the older generation are more easy to accept everything.”

Unfortunately, this is not the only divide that is present in the country. There is a huge difference in perspectives among social classes which flashes out the country’s inequality problems. “People in the middle- to upper-class are definitely more likely to be on the side of the government, just because things have been working out very well for them, and they don’t feel a need for change, so they see protestors as unreasonable and annoying.”

At the end of the day, even though the protests and the tension in the country might have affected Aphornsuvan’s mental health to a certain extent, she sees a lot of hope for the people and the country. Thai protests are well-known for their creativity and style. She said she enjoys going to protests because you really see the thoughts and creativity put into them. “It’s already a very stressful situation. Having those creative aspects helps to make it a little easier to keep going and fighting.”

A truly democratic Thailand is the ultimate hope for Aphornsuvan, but she understands that there is unlikely to be a big change in immediate years. “Thailand has never been truly democratic Thailand. I find it hard to even picture what it would look like.”

However, she said this is the first time people are actually talking about one of the fundamental issues of the country: the monarchy. So, she has hope to see improvements with Thailand’s political system in her lifetime.

Aphornsuvan points out the lack of coverage of news except for the “bubble,” which includes the United States and China, and encourages people to stay active and curious. She said that even though Thailand is famous for its beautiful beaches, amazing food and prostitution, she does not want people to just think of Thailand as a commercial paradise because there is more to Thailand than just that.

“There’s a lot of other things that have been happening in the world, and it would be great for us to know, educate ourselves and teach each other about the world.”