In 2020, a youth-based protest movement swept Thailand, with protestors calling for fundamental reforms to the Kingdom’s politics. While their key demands—a new election, a new constitution, and reforms to the monarchy—have not been met, the protestors have already succeeded in changing the terms of the national political debate that had persisted over the last two decades. With pledges to return to the streets in the new year with more force, the protests show no signs of stopping, and the endgame remains more uncertain than ever.

On January 19, USIP hosted a discussion on the underlying political dynamics that drive this movement—as well as a look at the tactics the protestors have deployed to mobilize in Thailand’s restrictive environment, where the protest movement may go from here, and how the U.S. government might constructively respond.

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #ThailandUSIP. 

Speakers

Rattaphol “Ahn” Onsanit
Thai Service Chief, Voice of America

Penchan Phoborisut
Assistant Professor, California State University, Fullerton

Jonathan Pinckney
Senior Researcher, Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace

Desmond Walton
Senior Director, BowerGroupAsia; U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) and Former U.S. Defense Attaché to Thailand 

Brian Harding, moderator
Senior Expert, Southeast Asia, U.S. Institute of Peace

Related Publications

Thai Authorities Struggle to Understand a Conflict They Have Been Fighting for Decades

Thai Authorities Struggle to Understand a Conflict They Have Been Fighting for Decades

Monday, September 13, 2021

By: Don Pathan

In May 2021, Thai security forces were in a three-hour standoff with two Malay-Muslim separatist insurgents in a small remote village in the southernmost border province of Yala. As they stood their ground, the two combatants made video calls to family and friends to bid farewell. Someone began recording one of the calls on another cellphone. Soon, footage of the two men, who were killed in the operation, was circulating on social media. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Thailand: Could One of Asia’s Deadliest Conflicts Be Coming to an End?

Thailand: Could One of Asia’s Deadliest Conflicts Be Coming to an End?

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

By: Don Pathan

Thailand’s southernmost region is home to one of Asia’s longest-running armed conflicts. A separatist movement that emerged in the 1960s sought to carve out the Muslim-majority region as an independent state. Levels of violence have oscillated over the course of the conflict, with the most recent insurgency arising in the early 2000s. Despite decades of protracted armed conflict, there is recent cause for optimism.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Thailand’s Political Protests Wade into Unprecedented Territory

Thailand’s Political Protests Wade into Unprecedented Territory

Thursday, September 3, 2020

By: Brian Harding

Thailand’s recent protests have burgeoned into a powerful movement that is challenging the country’s longstanding social and political orders. Along with calls for democratic and constitutional reform, many Thai youth and activists have begun openly criticizing the monarchy’s role in public life—something that has long been unthinkable in a country where the monarchy plays a central role in society. USIP’s Brian Harding examines what sparked these unprecedented demonstrations, the resistance protesters have faced from Thailand’s powerful military and government, and where the movement might lead.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Nonviolent Action

View All Publications