The need to protest


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What is it about society that drives people to protest? Other than for the sake of being there and actually experiencing a protest, I've never felt compelled to take to the streets to stand up for what I believe in. I wonder, though, had I grown up in Thailand rather than the UK, if perhaps this would be different. Bangkok is, after all, a hub of protesting activity.

Protests in Bangkok have been going on for as long as people have been able to voice their opinions. The latest round of protests in Bangkok saw some 10,000 people choose their side over the issue of the government's plan to redraft the constitution. Had I not been so hungover on Sunday, I would have been down there with them to witness the spectacle.

It seems unlikely that we will ever see a Thailand without divisions that are so strong they polarize opinions and inspire people to take to the streets prepared to fight. This says something about how unstable Thailand's political climate has always been. There is perhaps only One Person who keeps Thailand from falling into all-out civil war because people are always ready to fight for their beliefs.

When you look at the people at the protests, however, they aren't that different. They're really the same people just shouting different slogans. If they're not shouting then they're having a picnic or else enjoying a concert in between motivational speakers.

With pressure from the tourism industry, the economy and the world's media, protests in Bangkok can no longer be met with gunfire and as such, people are more prepared to voice their opinions and challenging issues are raised for governments in a way like never before. The people have now have to be heard, which throws up all manner of controversial opinions, the likes of which have usually been kept behind closed doors. There's still a long way to go, as the sheer number of reported lese majetse cases bears testimony to, but things are moving forwards.

It's difficult to envisage a Thailand where everybody is happy with the political situation, but is this really any worse than Western democracy, where people have become so used to the way things are that they no longer care to fight for what they believe? In Thailand, people will even protest the actions and the very existence of an elected government. There really is no way to win.

People are all too happy to protest war or global warming, but when it comes to internal affairs, many people have lost interest. But I look at the situation in the UK, where kids are knifing each other on a daily basis, and I compare it to Phuket, where much the same thing occurs, and really much there are as many similarities as differences.

In Bangkok you can protest for or against governments, coups, constitutions, democracy, rulers, dictators, anything – and it's through these protests that the most radical ideas are put into the public domain. Exciting time, isn't it?

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