Dec 1st, 2020

The dictator must watch out in the Biden era

From Arun, November 13, 2020
On the white box: There is an expectation that Biden’s era will be a restoration of the “Free World Community” for building the alliances to fight against dictators.
Title: The dictator must watch out.

[Refers to the hope that the U.S.’s foreign policy under President-elect Joe Biden will restore multilateralism and an emphasis on human rights.
This is in contrast to Trump’s “American first” policy which saw the U.S. exit international organizations and spur strategic alliances.
Thailand under PM Prayuth had closer relations with the U.S. under Trump.
Many are expecting that Prayuth will face more pressure from the U.S. for democratization and human rights protection under the incoming administration.]

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Mouth stopped up

From Naewna, November 13, 2020
On the TV: Being ashamed around the world. Anti-monarchy mob attack people who think different. The foreigner was bloody hit in front of his kid. [Thai media showed photos of the foreigner’s child crying uncontrollably after the attack.]
Above the bald man’s head: Amnesty Thailand.
Caption: Keep a pestle in the mouth… what they are waiting for?

[Refers to the pro-democracy group that got into a fight with a foreigner during a protest in Pattaya. Due to this incident, the protest group was criticized for hurting the country’s image.
This cartoon insults Amnesty Thailand as they supposedly kept silent on this violent incident. This implication being that the organization is designed to support one side and not the other. The saying “keep a pestle in the mouth” is a Thai saying meaning to keep silent like one’s mouth is stopped up. It further insults the organization by showing them using a sanitary napkin as a face mask.]

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It’s not cute anymore

From Thairath, October 28, 2020
Title: It’s not cute anymore.
Students: Too get out. Overthrow Too. Get out. [“Tu” is the nickname of PM Prayuth. Students using the similar sounded “Too” is supposed to be insulting, we think. Does any reader know the meaning of “Too” vs “Tu” here?]
On signs held by students: Good politics. Reform.
Minions: Slander. Distort. Traduce. Threat to slap your face. Hit the kids.
On a gun held by PM Prayuth: Urge one mob to clash with another.
Phi Nooring: Tu is a problem
Mouse: Don’t preserve the power.

[In recent months, protests have arisen calling on PM Prayuth to resign, to rewrite the current constitution and to reform the monarchy. Counter-protesters in yellow shirts (and also identical military haircuts) conducted a rally to show their support for the government and the royal family.

Here, those pro-government protesters are represented by characters from the Minion films as they not only wear royalist yellow, but also follow their leader to the death.

The student protests were initially called “cute” as a way to diminish their efforts. However, this characterization did point out the new character of their activism. The student protesters seemed to forswear the threatening rhetoric of traditional Thai protest. They also used cartoon and pop culture references in their protests.

The cartoonist says the protests are no longer cute now that violence is happening.]

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No Hong Kong Asylum

From Manager, November 3, 2020
Tony Chung: The U.S. and U.K. told us to fight… Then they would help us with asylum. Don’t believe it… When we lost, they left us!!!
Caption: Must learn from Hong Kong

[This refers to rumors that Thai protest leaders including Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul (pictured lower left) plan to ask for asylum from the U.S. embassy now that they are facing many charges.
This rumor is based on recent incidents in Hong Kong. Hong Kong protests have become more closely associated with the Thai protests in recent months with student participants on each side sending out their good wishes and moral support to the other side.
In October, some Hong Kong protesters, including activist Tony Chung, were arrested near the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong after supposedly seeking asylum there.
The line “The U.S. and U.K. told us to fight” comes from Chinese claim that the U.S. is encouraging the Hong Kong protests. (This perhaps ignores the point that new laws undermining the “one country, two systems” status of Hong Kong sparked the protests in the first place.)
The cartoonist seems to take delight in telling the Thai student protesters that any dreams of seeking asylum with the U.S. or U.K. are impossible.]

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Fears for the future

From Arun, November 18, 2020
Title: How will the future be?
On the man’s coat: Senator

[Refers to hopes for reform from the younger generation after senators dismissed draft constitution amendments as proposed by iLaw. The iLaw proposal was among the most sweeping of proposals. The senators, whose power it would limit, predictably turned it down.
In the cartoon, the plank is balanced on Democracy Monument as the appointed senators, under the present system, hold the balance of power and can stymie reform.]

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More signs of injustice

From Thairath, November 2, 2020
Title: Just hold it for fun, but it’s true.
On the sign held by the police officer: Work hard, but the boss takes a commission off.
Signs on the right from top to bottom: Bribe for illegal lottery; Gambling den; ฺBrothel
Students: Don’t be a slave of the dictator.
Phi Nooring: [The police] being strongly insulted by the kids
Mouse: Feeling of the police

[Refers to a recent incident when a fed-up police officer held up a sign in public to protest the kickbacks that police officers have to give up to their immediate superiors.
This incident was immediately seized upon by student protesters to call on the police to support their demands for the PM to step down and to reform the monarchy.
This would be a return to the circumstances during and after the Thaksin years when the police seemed to be siding with Thaksin and the Red Shirts, being unwilling to quickly arrest the Red Shirt movement’s leaders.
In the cartoon, student protesters call on the police to side with the students and their demands due to the corruption and injustice endemic within police ranks.]

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What is happening in America?

From Manager November 10, 2020
Military officer: Mr.Trump! If you don’t transfer the White House and the President’s seat to Mr. Biden… We will send in the commando to escort you.
Caption: America in this era… anything can happen.

[This shows the astonishment towards the strange events in the United States by those in other nations.
Despite the American citizen’s often self-deprecating attitude towards their own government and history, many outside the United States see the nation as a bastion of stability and an example of proper democratic comportment.
Thus, recent events, spurred by a president who scorns norms of democratic behavior, have been viewed with astonishment around the world.]

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Let the wound speak

From Thairath, October 30, 2020
Title: Let the wound say it instead.
The wound is saying: Ignore the call from the people, high school students and university students, but arrest and crackdown without humanity.
On his necktie: PT [Pheu Thai Party]
Sign on the table: Parliament President
Phi Nooring: Don’t attack the protesters.
Mouse: Hie Too is a problem.

[Refers to Pheu Thai Party’s MP Visan Techatirawat who slashed himself with a knife in Parliament to protest PM Prayuth and the government’s treatment of young pro-democracy activists.
In the cartoon, “Hie Tu” uses the word “Hie,” a Chinese word meaning “big brother,” but the sound can mimic “Hie (เหี้ย)” meaning something like “very damn person.” This is combined with “Tu” to mean “damn Prayuth.”]

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Scholarship requirements from Uncle Sam

From Manager, November 11, 2020
Uncle Sam: The regulation is… whoever curses the best… messes up the best… destroys the country the most… will receive a U.S. scholarship, and be able to go to America like these four people.
Caption: Taking the scholarship exam.

[Uncle Sam is referring to the four main leaders of the anti-government student protests. They were photographed being hosted at the U.S. embassy which has led to charges that the U.S. is backing the protests in Thailand (just as China accuses the U.S. of encouraging the protests in Hong Kong). The U.S. countered by saying their diplomats meet with various groups from society from time to time.
Note that the protest leaders did not actually receive scholarships. The artist is joking that those who riot will be taken care of–referring to the instance in Hong Kong when protest leaders attempted to obtain asylum from the U.S.]

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Democrats Great Again

From Thairath, November 7, 2020
Title: Democrats Great Again [these words are transcribed from English to make light of Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan]
On Trump’s suit: Trump.
On Biden’s tie: Biden.
Mouse: Keep the peace.
Mouse man: Stop the trade wars. [In reference to Trump’s recent tough trade actions impacting Thailand.]

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Destroy Thailand’s House

From Manager, October 21, 2020
Joshua Wong: My house has already been totally damaged. It’s your turn… Thorn [former Future Forward Party chief Thanatorn].
On a sign held by him: We stand with Thailand.

[Refers to Hong Kong political activist Joshua Wong who recently showed his support for the protests in Thailand. This connection is often referred to as the “Milk Tea Alliance.” Here he is speaking to former Future Forward Party executives.
Although Thailand’s protest is characterized as a student protest, former executives of the Future Forward Party are thought to be encouraging, if not outright organizing it.
The Future Forward Party was disbanded earlier this year and immediately promised furious protests, but were stymied by the pandemic lockdown.
At the time, it was rumored that the planned protests were going to take inspiration from the Hong Kong demonstrations, but this was denied at the time.
From a Westerner’s perspective, the protests in Hong Kong are an effort to stand up to the creeping Chinese takeover of the guarantees of freedom in Hong Kong. (Nikkei Asia has an interesting article on the search for a new Asian finance capital post-Hong Kong.)
However, this cartoon expresses an alternate view shared by the establishment in Thailand. This view is that extended protests ruined Hong Kong as a safe place to do business and that the former Future Forward execs wish to see the same in Thailand.]

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Covering up the truth

From Thairath, October 21, 2020
Title: Crackdown on the media showing the truth
On the water: Restrict media’s freedom; Shut mouth; Threaten the media
On reporter’s shirt: Prachathai
On microphone: News
Protesters: “Ahere!” Get out!
Phi Nooring: Victims of the dictators always
Mouse: #Save Freemedia

[Refers to the government’s order to investigate and suspend the media and online platforms, namely Voice TV, Prachatai, the Reporters, the Standard and the Facebook page ‘Free youth’ as they were accused for reporting news about anti-government protests. This was after the government suddenly took a hard line and used water cannons on the protesters. The courts later turned down the government’s order.
The word “ahie” means “younger brother.” It is being used by the protesters in place of the insult word “ihear” meaning “damn” or “bad person.”
The student protesters have shown an unusual amount of decorum for Thai-style protest which is usually expected to be both insulting and protracted. Instead, they have emphasized non-violence and conducted short protests.
When they were criticized for using the insulting “ihear” in their chants, they duly switched to the euphemistic “ahie.”
This style of protest has caused pundits in the Thai media to predict the protesters will get tired of protesting as, without an extended and confrontational standoff, a protest (at least through Thai eyes) cannot be successful.
Below are links to some earlier cartoons. While these are hostile to the students, ridiculing there tactics, their point of view brings to light these other aspects of the context of the protests and how they diverge from earlier efforts.
Earlier: Different tactics
Earlier: Wrong kind of revolution]

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The Hand of Uncle Sam

From Naewna, October 20, 2020
Caption: The protest without a leader…?

[Refers to the current student protests calling on PM Prayuth to resign, revise the constitution and reform the monarchy. After police arrested the protest leaders, the protesters claimed that the protest had no leader as everyone can be the leader.

This cartoonist, from a rabidly pro-establishment newspaper, accuses the U.S. of supporting the protests. This theory is mainly based on speculation circulated on social media.

First was that the U.S. embassy met with the student protest leaders.

Second was a rumor that had been circulating since the Future Forward Party was disbanded earlier this year and promised furious protests. This rumor claimed that the protesters in Thailand were going to follow the “Hong Kong model.”

From one perspective, the Hong Kong protests are admirable attempts to stand up to creeping Chinese tyranny. However, for those taking the Chinese claim for the necessity of law and order (like the current Thai military-dominated government which grows closer to China by the day as it is pressured), the student protests in Thailand are seen as an attempt by foreign interests to force political change under the threat of “ruining” Thailand, just as Hong Kong has been ruined as a safe financial harbor in Asia.

(Nikkei Asia has an interesting article on the search for a new Asian finance capital post-Hong Kong.)]

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Reform French Style

From Manager, October 22, 2020
Piyabutr: It’s time to reform the monarchy system!!!
Caption: Robespierre starts attacking.

[Refers to former Future Forward Party executive, Piyabutr, who quoted a speech of Maximilien Robespierre, one of the leaders in the French Revolution. Piyabutr was strongly criticized by pro-royalist groups for extolling the French Revolution as its use of the guillotine seems to be a threat against the monarchy in Thailand.
This cartoonist has previously referred to Piyabutr and the French Revolution here and here.]

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Remembering Sanpsiri Viryasiri

From Arun, October 17, 2020
Title: Sanpsiri Viryasiri. Thailand’s TV pioneer and first TV announcer

[This is a tribute to Thailand’s early TV announcer Sanpsiri Viryasiri who died on Oct 15, 2012. He was known, among other things, for his reports on the October 6, 1976 massacre. He also ran the Thai Railway Hall of Fame Museum (now permanently closed). He was born in 1920.]

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Power vs Authority

From Thairath, October 17, 2020
Title: Power vs Authority
On the hand: Authority [presumably representing concepts of the military dominated government and the monarchy]
Phi Nooring: Power of the younger generation
Mouse: Fight for the future

[Refers to the student-led protest calling for PM Prayuth to resign, draft a new constitution and reform the monarchy so it is constitutionally bound. The cartoonist shows the power of the people vs traditional authority from above.]

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Serving the people into jail

From Thairath, October 16, 2020
Title: Request to build a new statue [for the police]
People from left to right: Stop threatening people; Stop working for the dictator
On the statue: Working to carrying the people

[Refers to the call from the anti-government protest to the police to stop following the government’s order to break up protests, especially arresting protest leaders and wrapping them up in legal cases.
The cartoonist contrasts the situation with the Thai police’s iconic statue and government motto “to serve the people.” In the cartoon, it shows the statue altered to depict the police carrying away one of the protest leaders as shown in a widely circulated photo of his arrest.]

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Potjaman takes control

From Naewna, October 15, 2020
Khunying Potjaman: It is a trash of a neighbor which was left for years because a garbage man didn’t pick up it. That’s why I must throw it out by myself.
On the trash can: Kao Luang Party
On the trash bag: Overthrow the monarchy party

[Refers to Thaksin’s ex-wife Khunying Potjaman, known as the de facto leader of the Phea Thai Party. Amid anti-government protests supported by opposition parties led by the Move Forward Party and former members of the disbanded Future Forward Party, Potjaman and her family have signaled their support for the monarchy system through donations and a party reorganization designed to recapture control of the opposition.
(It is interesting to see foreign media reports like this one from a “correspondent for a progressive online newspaper based in Bangkok” that claims that Thaksin’s “lower-class base, the so-called “Red Shirts” have now joined the protest. While there is no evidence to support this yet and Potjaman’s actions were meant to stop this from happening, it does show how there is a battle for control of the opposition.)
This cartoon mocks the Thai name of the Move Forward Party by instead calling it the “Kao Luang” Party meaning stepping over. Luang is something like violating. Together it means they have the temerity to step over the monarchy.]

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We want our turn

From Manager, October 14, 2020
Field Marshal Plaek: I have already reformed the monarchy system to be under the constitution a long time ago… Isn’t that enough?
Panguine: No!… It hasn’t been under us yet!!!
Caption: Marshal P. must be curious.

[PM Field Marshal Plaek was a leader of the Siamese revolution in 1932 which overthrew the absolute monarchy. Here his ghost questions why students think they need to overthrow the monarchy again.
The present movement strongly shows their reverence for the 1932 revolution by naming themselves similarly and using symbols that refer to the revolution. The group’s leaders include Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and human rights lawyer Anon Nampa (pictured).]

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Military loves democracy

From Arun, October 8, 2020
Title: Political problems can be solved by political means. “Big Bie” will not conduct a coup.
Bottom: …Are you sure with a promise. I will adhere to that promise without forgetting. Even as time has passed, you must believe I will keep the promise to love you… promise promise promise. From the song ‘Love promise’

[The cartoon sarcastically shows a tank, representing the military, romantically embracing Democracy Monument.
“Big Bie” is the new army chief Gen. Narongphan Jitkaewtae who promised that there would be no fresh coup. This was amid rumors, always floated before big protests, that the military was panicking and would stage a coup.
The romance in the cartoon is to underline how the military always says they support democracy and are not eager to stage a coup… until one inevitably occurs.]

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Trump was not afraid

From Manager, October 7, 2020
COVID-19: His fault is not being afraid of us by not wearing a mask… and looking down on us as the easy-to-deal-with virus…

[Refers to US President Donald Trump who recently was infected by Covid-19. President Trump has been criticized for his failure to handle Covid-19 unlike other nations where it is under control. Trump has been seen without a mask in public. After his infection, there is concern whether the president himself will be a super spreader due to his careless behavior.]

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Turning on the people

From Thairath, October 13, 2020
Title: Their specialty job
On the bullet: IO operation
On the box: Budget from people’s taxes
Phi Nooring: Attack opposition parties
Mouse: Destroy people

[Refers to the Information Operation (IO) conducted by the military. This cartoon criticizes the military for operating fake news and spreading misinformation to attack the anti-government groups and opposition parties.
To show the army firing on protesters might have been seen as hyperbolic at the time the cartoon was published, but shortly after this, the government turned water cannons on peaceful protesters in a baffling and overconfident escalation of the situation.]

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Itchy foot

From Manager, October 12, 2020
Khana Ratsadon 2563: We will allow the royal cars to pass… but we will show three fingers to welcome them!!!
Man: Hum…So itchy!

[Refers to the anti-royalist group Khana Ratsadon 2563 announcing their plan to hold the rally on Oct 14, 2020 at Democracy Monument which was a route for the royal cars as well. The group assured authorities that they would not interrupt the royal cars, but they would show the three finger salute as their symbol to call for democracy.
Such actions are unprecedented and the cartoonist contends that such a salute towards royalty would upset supporters of the monarchy. Here a supporter of the monarchy has an itchy foot which symbolizes that he wants to kick or otherwise take violent action against the protesters.]

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Different tactics

From Manager, October 16, 2020
Anon: We stop the protest now!
Sparrow: What… I haven’t drank any water!!
Caption: Sparrow getting confused (again)

[Refers to Thai proverb “a sparrow hasn’t drunk any water yet” meaning a thing is quickly finished. Most often, this expression is used to humorous comment on a man’s premature ejaculation.

This cartoon thus is strongly sarcastic about the current anti-government protest led by human rights lawyer Anon and their short protests and flash mobs to pressure the government.

The joke here is indicative of typical Thai humor, perhaps not really funny to outsiders, that hinges on wordplay based on idioms or proverbs.

The cartoonist is mocking the protesters’ tactics as they diverge from how protest is thought to be best conducted.

Thai protest over the years has usually been characterized by long sieges designed to provoke the authorities into messy and violent actions after which protesters can demand the government step down for hurting the people.

However, the short protests of the students simply show their numbers and establish the right to protest before dispersing. Such protests break the mold of how it is thought Thai protest should be conducted–with weeks or even months of well-financed sieges meant to paralyze movement in an area and ensure a showdown.

Even the students’ continual exhortations to be nonviolent are unusual. Typically, Thai protests are conducted under the “I was forced to do this shameful thing (protest) by you” concept. Then daily threats of arson and looting are made by leaders using the typical saying that protesters can do anything and “I will take responsibility.”

The use of water cannons on the students also did not result in a normal course of events. Afterwards, the students once again ended the protest while affirming their nonviolence. This caused surprise in the Thai media where pundits expected a more traditional response such as “we are now free to attack you because you attacked us” and “we will sit here for months and dare you to do more.”]

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Thanks for the help

From Manager, October 12, 2020
Left, Thanathorn: That’s the way… Going up and staying there. It is more fun…
Caption: When goes up…
Right, Penguin: How do we go down?
Caption: When want to go down…

[Refers to the royalist reform group “Khana Ratsadon 2563” led by Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa.
The cartoonist implies that Thanathorn’s group including Piyabutr and Somsak are behind the Khana Ratsadon 2563 (and its subsequent incarnations) and wish to promote another revolution like the Siamese Revolution of 1932–or at least apply extreme political pressure to the military-dominated government while protecting themselves.
The cartoon criticizes Thanathorn’s group for using student protesters to achieve their goals without caring about the consequences to the students who are being encouraged to protest.]

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From Manager, October 6, 2020
Piyabutr: Hit it!… Tyrant King… Abuse the people!!!
On the grave: Louis XVI 1793
Penguin: He does not dare to hit directly.

[Refers to former Future Forward Party leader Piyabutr who has promoted lectures on the crimes of the French monarchy and the history of the French Revolution. This is somewhat like how Red Shirts once promoted studies of similar historical events and assassinations. All are ways to skirt local laws that prevent one from directly threatening the monarchy.

The cartoonist shows how times have changed. Now student activists like Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak are leading protests that openly demand changing the legal status of the monarchy. They also draw parallels between their protests and the 1932 revolution that overthrew the monarchy.

Meanwhile politicians like Piyabutr, whatever their private opinions, have to carefully hide their true intentions as they are part of the system of political parties and tycoons. These groups use talk of the French Revolution to pressure and threaten the establishment, but their true goals are more likely political pressure and control of government.

The cartoonist ridicules Piyabutr’s pantomime of outrage as he dares not show his real intention or be as brave as the students activists.]

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From Naewna, October 6, 2020
Title: Prayuth’s dictatorship gets out.

[This pro-government cartoon criticizes disbarred Future Forward Party MP Thanatorn for being a thug–likening him to a Nazi.
Typically enemies of Thanatorn and his movement claim that he wishes an overthrow of the monarchy and the installation of a socialist or communist regime.
Here, the use of a swastika is in keeping with the tradition of smearing someone one does not like or who does agree with as a Nazi regardless of their actual ideology.]

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A tool of cruel power

From Thairath, October 3, 2020
Title: A tool of cruel power
On the constitution held by PM Prayuth and Election Commission chief Ittiporn: My rules.. from the constitution’ 60. Whatever we do, there is nothing wrong. [meaning the former junta wrote the charter and seems to never fall afoul of Election Commission rulings]
On the Election Commission chief’s suit: EC; Orange card; Yellow card; Red card; Black card
On the party members’ back and on signs close to them: MPs; Against the government; Opposition Party; Dissolve the party; Deprive of MP’s rights
Phi Nooring: Destroy the democratic-side political parties
Mouse: Draft a new constitution

[Refers to the current constitution written during the military-dominated government. This constitution has been criticized as the tool for extending the junta’s power to become the current elected government. In the cartoon, the government together with the Election Commission (EC) uses the constitution as the tool to destroy the opposition.]

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Old whiskey in old bottle

From Naewna, October 1, 2020
Title: Old whiskey in the old bottle.
On the bottles: PT

[Refers to Thaksin’s ex-wife Potjaman’s recent action in reorganizing the Pheu Thai (PT) Party to distance the party from protests which increasingly target the monarchy.

This cartoon refers to the Thai proverb “old wine in new bottle” or “old whiskey in new bottle” (literally “old alcohol/liquor in new bottle”). This phrase is usually used to ridicule political party reorganizations which merely shuffle around the same old power families, tycoons and mafia groups that have controlled politics for decades.

However, in this cartoon, the cartoonist uses the phrase “old whiskey in the old bottle” implying that the Pheu Thai Party barely being shuffled and nothing is changing.]

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Bringing up the old ghost of Thaksin

From Thairath, October 1, 2020
Title: Invoke a ghost… causing the kids to be confused or seek assistance
On the wall: Operation of the IO from people’s taxes
Paper held by PM Prayuth: Extend the power [referring to the constitution which has allowed the military to remain in power after elections]
His officer on the left yelling: To discredit the university and high school students people
His officer on the right yelling: Threaten; Spreading the news; Make people divided
Papers held by the students: 1 Dream; 2 Standpoints; 3 Demands
Phi Nooring: People know about it and won’t believe.
Mouse: Good at using the wrong means’

[Refers to how PM Prayuth uses to handle with the September 19 protest led by ‘Free People’ student group.

This cartoon ridicules the government contention that Thaksin was behind the protest. Therefore, the cartoon uses Thai idom “provoke the ghost” meaning trying to bring up an old story to scare people.

The cards held by the students refer to their demands. Initially the protesters announce three “demands” (stop threatening people, draft a new constitution and dissolve the parliament), two “standpoints” (no coup and no national government) and one “dream” (The King is under the constitution.)

Unfortunately for the opposition, the protest was overshadowed by a focus on frank talk about the monarchy and demands for its reform. Overseas protests held at the same time were even more confrontational.

Thus opposition hopes for a laser focus on a charter rewrite were dashed and the government blamed Thaksin and the Pheu Thai for the controversial content of the protest.

More on the September 19 protests and reorganization of the Pheu Thai leadership]

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