Opinion: Why Many Youths No Longer Tolerate the Status Quo

An antivisit writes an anti-government message in Bangkok on July 31, 2020.

Six years of the military regime drilling one-sided information about the virtue of political and cultural conservatisms didn’t work with many youth who are opposing the current regime right now.

Instead of adhering to then junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-ocha’s 12 values for youth, the young anti-government demonstrators are showing that they could not have been less receptive.

Do they still remember some of the 12 values espoused by the military junta which was led by Prayut back in July 2014, soon after the May coup of the same year?

The eight values espoused by Prayut include respect for elders. That, perhaps is something elders will have to earn and not assume it’s unconditional.

Years of drilling one-sided positive-only information about the established conservatives through various state-controlled media and private-media collaborators have backfired.

Why? This is likely partly due to the fact that what the conservative establishment forced-fed the young is simply too simplistic, comical even. The tale of good men versus bad is so black-and-white, and simply too good to be true. The conservative narrative reads more like a bedtime story for five-year-old children.

Youths 15 and over find it too unrealistic and they have become curious.

On the other hand, alternative narrative and news critical of the powers that be has become very accessible for those who are even mildly curious.

Some media-influencers and political gurus have more following on Twitter and Facebook than some state or corporate media. We are talking about 100,000 followers and even more.

Unlike the media landscape of the pre-social media era of a decade ago, the current news and information terrain is porous. Reality presented on social media is complex and sometimes the opposite of what young Thais are being told to believe.

Consumers can choose to subscribe to their favourite alternative media and social media influencers that are increasingly setting political agendas and opening wider and more complex political vista on their smartphones.

The stark perception of reality aside, the economic outlook for young Thais couldn’t have been worse. Over half a million young Thais graduate from universities and colleges each year. This year, due to the economic impact of coronavirus, many will be looking for underemployment if not end up unemployed.

According to a latest survey by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, 370,000 graduates are still unemployed.

The GDP is forecasted to shrink by up to 10 percent, if not even more by the end of the year. Many young Thais have been forced to think about the state of Thai society and their future, or the lack thereof.

They are becoming politicized and want to alter the direction Thailand is heading.

The demand of the Free Youth group which encouraged similar protests nationwide over the past two weeks shows they want change.

Among their demands are fresh general elections and a new constitution. Six years of Prayut Chan-ocha and his cronies now occupying the senate is more than long enough. It’s one third of the lifespan of these young Thais.

Their sentiments are echoed by a slightly older politician, Rangsiman Rome, at 28.

The Move Forward MP told the Lower House last month that it’s time to let the young run the country.

While I think the country should be run by people of various age groups, the fact is, Thailand has lost six years under direct and indirect military rule. The least for those of us older than 25 can do is to listen to the youth carefully, with empathy, and ask what we can do.

Do not alienate and force them to become a lost generation by our indifference.