Social Media Changes The Face Of Thai Protests

Bigger Picture.

1 / 1

1.

Social Media Changes The Face Of Thai Protests

Written By - Thai Business Box. 18-10-2020.

In Thailand’s long history of political crises and military coups,  almost every crises stems from one of two scenarios, bringing down a military-backed government  by pro-democracy groups or bringing down a civilian government by pro-establishment  groups.

Key to the success of either side achieving their goal in bringing down the incumbent government is the art of protest organisation and management.

Themes, clothing, colour coordination, speeches, sound systems, entertainment, food, pinpointing areas to occupy, securing demonstration sites, crowd control, bringing in the crowd,  sustaining and escalating the movement, controlling the use of violence, finances and more are all details that need to be looked into.

In the current protest, the employment of social media by the younger generation has helped streamline the process, making protest organisation, management and execution much easier and more effective.

First of all, the spreading of information on ideology or cause is nothing for these keyboard ninjas and within minutes, a post or a video could go viral.

Furthermore, when concepts can be easily explained on social media, themes from movies that resonate with their cause can be taken and applied, in this case, the Hunger Games, with a simple three-finger salute, making it unnecessary for participants to invest in expensive props like coloured shirts or hand-clappers.

Secondly, the use of social media facilitates the quick establishment of core protest leaders and a whole host of second tier influencers, making leadership a transferable element.

The rounds of arrests of core leaders conducted  by the government on the 15th and 16th October did not deter the students  to defy the “severe” emergency decree law and held more rallies on the evenings of the 15th and 16th, under the remaining leaders. Continue reading Below - 

AD

In the face of more arrest warrants issued, the now almost leaderless movement have proclaimed online that “everybody is a leader.”

Thirdly, the concept of “flash mobs” was able to be introduced and executed flawlessly. With a “cat and mouse” strategy, student protestors on the 16th announced a rally at Ratchaprasong, only to appear in large numbers at Pathumwan. The police used water canon on the protestors and regained control of the area, prompting the leaders to end the rally for the night, but calling for another one the next day.

The ability to mobilize quickly through social media means it is unnecessary for the protestors to hold on to any area for a long period of time and reduces the chances of violence coming into play, dispersing quickly when the need arises.

It also enables the groupings of large numbers of protestors in different locations, simultaneously at the same time. On the 17th evening, “flash mobs” positioned themselves in 5 different areas with main ones held at are Lardprao intersection, Udomsuk and Wongwian Yai in Bangkok, despite the closing of services at many BTS stations, MRT and the Airport Rail Link.

This “cat and mouse” tactic is expected to be adopted as the norm as “flash mobs” will continue to bring disruptions to many parts of the city and stretch police resources thin.

Fourthly, the protestors own the social media space in terms of propagating their cause and message where government’s presence is limited or non existent. Earlier, the incumbent government could control the narrative by clamping down on mainstream  media. Today, the government has lost control of this narrative edge as protestors can promote their narrative so much more faster and efficiently on social media.

The use of social media has changed the face of Thai protests and have given the student protestors, with their limited resources and against all odds, the chance to maybe get some of their demands met. The ability to maintain mounting pressure on the side of  the protestors may make the government realize that traditional methods of dealing with protestors such as arresting leaders or dispersing the protests through police intervention and water canons may not serve them well this time.

An ex-protest leader, Jatuporn Prompan,  veteran of the 2010 “Red Shirts” protests summed it up well in a late night discussion show “ We are the 0.4 generation, while they(the students) are the 4.0 generation”.