Plenary Roundtable

Daring to Imagine the Future: Youth and Democracy in Thailand

Saturday, Nov. 14, 08:00 - 09:00 (US CST)
Saturday, Nov. 14, 21:00 - 22:00 Thailand

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Moderators: Tyrell Haberkorn (UW-Madison) and Neeranooch Malangpoo (Silpakorn University)

Omar Noonanunt studies international relations at Thammasat University, Tha Prajan. He is one of the cofounders of We Watch (election observation organization) and is a producer of the podcast Pan Prasat (nerve-spinning) on youth and political society.

Wasana Wongsurawat teaches Chinese history (from Yao to Mao) at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University. She writes about the history of the ethnic Chinese in Thailand and the intriguing relationship between ethnic Chinese capitalists and the Thai monarchy

Bencharat Sae Chua is a lecturer at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, Thailand. Her research interest is on grassroot social movements and the contention over the meaning of democracy and human rights.

Pimsiri Petchnamrob is a human rights activist, cultural critic and documentary filmmaker. She holds a BA from Chulalongkorn University and an MA in International Law and Human Rights from Ateneo De Manila University in the Philippines and the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. She is currently facing seven charges stemming from her speech during the 18 July 2020 Free People protest at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

Chaipong Samnieng is a lecturer in the Department of History at Naresuan University. He is one of five scholars prosecuted in 2018 in the “An academic conference is not a military base” case related to the International Thai Studies Conference in Chiang Mai in 2017.

Thanatorn Vitayabenjang studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religion in the Faculty of Humanities at Chiang Mai University. He is one of the cofounders of the Wilar Party and currently works with Just Speak. He is also the president of the Chiang Mai University Human Rights Club and has organized demonstrations at Tha Pae Gate.

Beginning in June 2020, university and high school students have taken to the streets in Thailand on a scale and breadth not seen for over forty years. Despite the official end of the military government in 2019, democracy remains foreclosed and the former junta and its allies continue to exercise significant power. After critique built on social media for over year, protests in Bangkok and every region, and nearly every province, have emerged called for a real transition to a democracy organized into three demands: dissolve parliament and hold elections, draft a new constitution, and stop harassing the people. As the protests intensified in size and demands, including a daring call to speak openly about the place of the monarchy in the polity in August 2020, arrests and repression of activists also intensified. At the time this roundtable is being planned (early September 2020), the future – whether democracy or dictatorship – remains in the balance in Thailand.  In this keynote roundtable, student activists, long-time human rights activists, and scholars of student movements and politics come together to offer their perspective and assessment of the current protests, the transformations that have already taken place, and those which may come.  They will reflect on the current protests in light of the long history of dictatorship and democracy, the student movement, the country’s human rights record, the restrictions on political expression and protest in Thailand, and the role of scholars in and beyond the country in a time of transformation.

Note: The panelists will speak in both English and Thai; there will be summary translation into both languages provided in text chat.


Kanjana Thepboriruk, Ph.D., (กัญจนา เทพบริรักษ์)
Chair, NIU Thai Studies Committee

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