The winds of change are blowing
The wind of change has swept across Thailand and awakened Thai youth faster and more furiously than I've witnessed before in my lifetime. The three-fingered salute of rebellion which has spread to high-school students like Covid-19 during the traditional ritual of national anthem singing appears to have caused alarm among older generation people like myself.
Well-known political scientist Surachart Bamrungsook of Chulalongkorn University has described this new political phenomenon, citing the mass protest on Aug 16 at the Democracy Monument as a second uprising like that of Oct 14, 1973.
He said that the time for change has arrived in Thailand.
I fully agree with him that the time for change has revisited the country. But the change this time may lead to a makeover of Thailand in political, social and economic aspects if the rebellious younger generation has most, if not all, their demands fulfilled.
The unknown factor is to what extent change will occur and which institutions or organisations will be affected.
All the demands for change by various groups of people who are not happy with the status quo, from the LGBT community and high-school students to people in the Deep South yearning for some sort of self-determination to solve the protracted insurgency as well as those who want reform of the monarchy, came together at the Aug 16 rally which eclipsed the Aug 10 protest at Thammasat University when student activists raised their 10-point demand for monarchical reform.
Mr Surachart said that a coup this time may not be easy and the military may, this time, find more foolhardy souls like the taxi driver who drove his vehicle to confront a tank sent by the coup makers to intimidate protesters.
According to him, the rise of student activism and calls for change for a better future for the young is a current which has swept across Asia, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand.
For Thai youth, they feel strongly that the regime under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and institutions that form society have failed them to the extent they feel they don't have a future if there is no change to these hierarchies.
Although the young are a force to be reckoned with, they need support from the old generation for their aspirations to be fulfilled, partially or fully.
Mr Surachart said the youth movement needs the backing of labourers and people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the time being, it appears the demands of the young protesters have gone far beyond regime change as originally stated.
The demand for, or the dream of, monarchical reform being rephrased by the protesters to ease resistance from the pro-royalists is a sensitive issue and they must tread carefully and maturely with it.
The revered institution has been with Thailand for centuries and is respected by millions of Thais. So, to expect it to be changed overnight is unrealistic and an unnecessary invitation for resistance.
Some critics have alleged the youth have been brainwashed by political elements such as the Progressive Movement leaders Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and exiled academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul who formerly taught at Thammasat University.
They may be influenced, but the access to unlimited and uncensored information from social media and the internet has opened up their horizons in such a way that inconvenient truths can no longer be concealed.
Even if change takes place now or in the foreseeable future, those who aspire to lead the country must realise the road ahead is still strewn with obstacles, foremost of all our worst economic crisis, and must be well prepared to meet the challenges.
Or they will fail the young generation like the current regime.
The situation appears to be ripe for the next big thing or a second Oct 14 to arrive sooner rather than later.
Hopefully, cool heads will prevail on all sides, especially among the radicals of both camps, if they genuinely want to see a better future for the country and the next generation's realisation of the truth that nothing is permanent and change is for the better.
Veera Prateepchaikul is former editor, Bangkok Post.
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.