Politics, Protests Dominate Thailand’s Twitter in 2020

Riot police shoot water cannons at pro-democracy protesters in front of Siam Paragon shopping mall on Oct. 16, 2020.

BANGKOK — For once, entertainment took a backseat on Thai Twitterverse this year, giving way to politics, according to the company’s year-end report.

Hashtags mobilizing people to join pro-democracy protests and tweets from activists – some of whom are actors and academics – were some of the most shared content on the platform throughout 2020, the company said in a statement.

“Social awareness and movements have come to the fore on Twitter in Thailand this year with popular social movement-related accounts including actresses, activists, professors, student movements and NGOs,” Twitter said.

“We saw people go to Twitter to participate in important discussions and social movements with conversations around marriage equality and LGBT resonating.”

The social media firm listed most 10 popular accounts linked to social movements, all of which are in the pro-democracy camp. They include the Bad Student activist group, Thammasat University professor Prajak Kongkirati, celeb-activist Intira “Sai” Charoenpura, iLaw legal reform advocacy group, and political commentator John Winyu.

Also prominent are the accounts of student activists Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and Tanawat Wongchai, democracy campaigner Sombat Boonngam-anong, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, and Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn. 

In October, it was Wiroj who used his Twitter platform to publicize the case where a schoolgirl was slapped for not standing up for the National Anthem.

The most popular social movement hashtags were, predictably, about the street protests, such as the #15OctatRatchaprasong and #Oct16atPathumWanIntersection.

The two hashtags were associated with the watershed moments of the protest movement.

Thousands gathered at Ratchaprasong Intersection on the night of Oct. 15 to protest emergency powers PM Prayut Chan-o-cha granted to himself. They returned on the following day, Oct. 16, when police dispersed them by firing water cannons laced with teargas agents close to Pathumwan Intersection.

The crackdown achieved little other than to provoke more street protests in the following weeks, which continue to this day.

Other popular hashtags such as #FreeYouth, #StopHarmingCitizens, and #WhatIsHappeninginThailand helped draw more attention to the movement.

Even the most reshared tweet on Twitter in 2020 – at 215,200 times – was linked to politics. It was a tweet sent out by a Thai member in the K-pop supergroup GOT7 on Oct. 17, a day after the crackdown at Pathumwan Intersection.

“Violence doesn’t solve any problems. Don’t use violence on citizens. Open your heart and respect each others’ rights; that’s the beginning of finding a solution. Please take care of yourself,” Kunpimook “Bambam” Bhuwakul wrote.

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