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Non-violent civil resistance in Thailand: The reading protests

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These are happy Thais -- see the smiles? -- and so they are following the junta's prime directive to be happy Thai people!

(The book on the right is Gene Sharp's.) From the interview:

How did you come up with the idea?
Kasama: I thought we should do something to show our standpoint against the military coup, but it should be in a nonviolent way. We were inspired by the silent reading protests in Turkey after weeks of violent clashes between protesters and police. The Turkish protesters showed there was a path of resistance that didn’t require violence.

Why 1984?
Kasama: In Orwell’s 1984 everything is controlled by Big Brother and his party. They watch over you at all times, there’s no freedom of speech, no freedom of expression or anything—the authority even forces you to believe that 2+2=5. And that’s now happening here, in real life, in Thailand. The book helps illustrate the severity of this political situation. Actually, you can read anything you want; the point is that through a non-provocative act we can show our resistance to dictatorship.

See how tactics can leap around the world? Amazing. I'm still not quite clear how to categorize standing silently in a group and reading Orwell's 1984 when a junta's running your country, whether as [#163] ("Stand-in", a physical intervention) or as 29 (a "Symbolic reclamation" of public space, a symbolic public act).*

It's not clear how "effective" these acts of civil resistance are, and it's surely true that the single most important social trend in Thailand right now -- what's happening with the majority of the Thai population outside the Bangkok area, who the junta is seemingly seeking to disenfranchise -- is just as invisible to foreign observers as it is to most of Bangkok, and the press based in Bangkok. However, these non-violent acts are courageous in themselves, and could end up being important to the minority of the Bangkok population that may be disenfranchised as well.

Finally, I'm fascinated that this interview appeared in BK Magazine, a glossy "feel good" English-language paper much read by the hipper brand of expat, foreigners, and tourists. So courage, once more.

NOTE * The classification isn't quite an academic thing; I want to fit these efforts into a global and historical context; in a perfect world, I'd have a map showing all these incidents, wherever reported....

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quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

Interesting to hear more about the reading protests. Shades of Fahrenheit 451 too.

A couple of things occurred to me while reading: it's probably not worthwhile to worry too much about effectiveness. It's hard to predict what will be effective and we (meaning people) aren't too good at it. Any protest is better than no protest. The other thing is it also speaks to any of the enfranchised who care about others but may need some reminding.

I like the idea of the map!