May 20th, 2021

Don’t be cruel, Thais

From Thairath, April 22, 2021
Title: Thai people! Why still stay ‘silent’?
On the papers held by people: Release our sister. Release our kids. Release our friends. Rights to bail out. Did nothing wrong. Don’t need to go to jail. Violate the constitution. Release our friends. Call for justice. Release
Papers on the ground: Call for the future; Call for freedom; Call for reform
Sign on the man with camera: Press
Word in front of them: Silent Thais
On the sleeve: Dictator; injustice
Phi Nooring: Everyone is the country’s future.
Mouse: Don’t be cruel, Thais.

[Refers to the anti-government group calling the public to support their campaign to releasing the student protest leaders who have been denied bail and are detained for allegedly violating article 112 (the lese majeste law).
With all the news from Myanmar and the serious resurgence of COVID locally, much of the media has forgotten the student protests that dwindled away as their leaders remain jailed without bail. Their continued detention is a serious issue for future protests as it discourages others from taking a bold stand and makes clear that the quick, sweeping changes that are being called for remain remote.]

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Release our vaccines!

From Arun, April 22, 2021
Inside white box on the top: “CP rich man” asks the PM to allow the private sector to import the COVID vaccine.
Left: “Release our friends”
Right: “Release vaccines freely”
Caption: Big guy comes..

[Refers to CP owner Dhanin Chearavanont asking the government to allow the private sector to import COVID-19 vaccines. This is due to the incredibly slow rollout of vaccination and the appearance that the government was attempting to monopolize the procurement process.

The “big guy” here refers to Dhanin. Such a person and his vast resources overshadows even the government and thus such people are usually careful about making public statements that might impact the economy. Their statements can shake markets and cause policy changes in a way the comparatively simple military men who control the government never could.

The cartoonist compares the locked up student leaders with the vaccine procurement and questions why the government has so long controlled the procurement.

The government confusingly replied that any business can order vaccines as long as they filled out the paperwork. It is likely that the current third and most severe wave of infections will force the government to relent and allow widespread procurement by hospitals.]

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Go forward to buy weapons!

From Thairath, April 29, 2021
Title: It’s necessary for security.
On paper held by Army chief Gen. Narongpan Jittkaewtae: Go forward to buy weapons.
Medical staff behind left: Increase a number of infection cases everyday Middle: Hospital crisis Right: Covid vaccine crisis.
On the corpses: Died at home
Paper on the woman: Grandma died at home
Paper close to the man: No car [ambulance] to pick up. Wait until he died
Phi Nooring: The army is unconcerned.
Mouse: Don’t care about people’s sufferings

[After a year of generally successful handling the COVID crisis with very small numbers of infections, the government seemed unprepared for the current major outbreak, instead relying on its plan to restrict vaccines supply to two types and have the public wait until the vaccine can be produced locally.
The military continued to move forward on massive weapons procurement. The public has strongly criticized the government response to the latest COVID wave and the continued military spending while people die unvaccinated.]

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They might have to beg

From Thairath, April 28, 2021
Left: Recently
Right: Now

[The government has come under withering public criticism for their attempts to monopolize the vaccine supply, restricting it to two vaccine types and prioritizing local production over quick inoculations.
Responding to the pressure, Public Health Minister Anutin said that he would beg for Pfizer if it helps the country to get the vaccine quicker.]

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Right here, right now

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U.S. conspiracy theory

From Manager, April 21, 2021
Chonthicha: Hey you… I accidentally leaked our Line chat.

[Refers to social media news about a Line chat between Thai political NGO Chonthicha Kate Jangrew and former U.S. Embassy staff Henry Rector about the political situation in Thailand. This allegedly shows that the U.S. was actively playing behind the scenes in the Thai political conflict.

However, both Chonthicha and U.S. Embassy denied this and insisted that the Line chat was fake.

In bed are the leaders of anti-government groups, from left to right: Rung, Penguin, Amy and Mike.

All of this is part of the conspiracies that the U.S. has been trying to dispel since the student protests and their vow to reform the monarchy emerged last year.

Such conspiracies were mainly spurred by photos that revealed the student protest leaders having a meeting at the U.S. embassy. The U.S. embassy replied that the protest leaders were just one of many groups they regularly meet with to get an understanding of Thai society and politics.

More conspiracy theories emerged after U.S. senators released statements to assure the international community that the students did not wish revolution while, back in Thailand, student groups were extolling communism and unveiled a new logo made to resemble the hammer and sickle.

Another example is The Hand of Uncle Sam. Some Thai media has become very anti-American and equates the protests in Thailand with those in Hong Kong and through a very Chinese perspective which sees an attempt by rich tycoons to ruin the nation to get their way.

For more see Causing trouble in Hong Kong

and Real democracy in Hong Kong]

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Guin must not die in vain

From Manager, May 4, 2021
Somsak: Guin said using his stomach to call people out for this moment.
Protester: Wa!
On the signs held by protesters: RIP Guin; Guin dies, our friend; Don’t let Guin die in vain
On the sign held by Panika ‘Chor’ at left: Guin must not die in vain

[Refers to Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and his hunger strike. He was demanding to be released on bail for lese majeste charges. In recent weeks his mother and anti-government groups called the court to release Penguin before he died. The government moved him to a hospital and claimed his condition was not serious as protesters claimed. The cartoonist is joking that the student movement is using Penguin’s health to try to generate public interest in their waning protests.
Penguin was finally released this week after agreeing not to repeat the actions he was arrested for.]

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Thank you police!

From Manager, April 20, 2021
Covid-19: If not because of your bribery… and carelessness, we can’t recover to spread an outbreak again… Thank you!
Caption: Have already thanked them?

[Refers to the new COVID-19 cluster starting from the bar Krystal Club Thonglor 25. Many politicians have been infected from this bar. The police have been criticized for allowing powerful people to skirt pandemic prevention procedures and for bars to disregard rules on closing times.
This cartoon shows a typical ritual where a person (in this case the virus) who has appealed to and won support from the police to do something wrong, then humbly thanks the police for their indulgence.]

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Better not lockdown

From Naewna, April 27, 2021
COVID-19: If you love yourself and are afraid of dying, then, make an order to lockdown the country, PM.
On the bag: Country’s economy
PM Prayuth: No… no…
Caption: Sometimes poverty is scarier than death.

[In the current wave of COVID infections, the government has not lockdown the country as they did last year. They seem more concerned about getting the economy going again. This cartoon supports the government position amid widespread public criticism.]

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We oppose the vaccine plan, but please inject me now

From Manager April 19, 2021
Caption: Fortune favors the bold party
People commenting on the Move Forward Party decision to be vaccinated: Oppose… oppose… oppose, but inject first?; Your party once said… you won’t grab it from the people?; Hey… criticize it, but why inject it?
Man in the far distance: Shameless
Man with glasses at the bottom right: Close your ears firmly.

[Refers to MPs from the Move Forward Party announcing their plan to accept COVID-19 vaccinations provided by the government. According to them, they took the action in order to encourage people to get the vaccine.

The new party stance has been criticized. The party, led by Thanathorn, made attacking the government’s vaccine plan, and especially questioning the quality of the vaccine, a bold public position, even risking lese majeste charges. The cartoonist mocks this initial position compared with their flip-flop to decide to accept government vacinnes and urge others to also.]

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Distant dream of vaccine

From Arun, April 27, 2021
On the white box at top: When the ‘disease’ inundates the globe. Every country quickly inoculates. “Noah’s Ark 2021”

[Refers to the continuing and baffling lack of widespread vaccination in Thailand as well as the government’s embargo on private hospitals ordering their own stocks of vaccine. While many countries have quickly vaccinated, Thailand is still lagging behind neighboring countries (even Laos).]

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Which direction is the injustice?

From Arun, April 13, 2021
Inside the white box: Christine Schraner Burgener. UN Special Envoy visits Thailand to discuss about the protests in Myanmar.
Foreign Minister Don: Madam, Myanmar is over there.

[Refers to UN Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener who met with Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in Thailand to discuss the Myanmar crisis. However, she was refused entry to Myanmar by the junta.
Critics of Thailand’s military-dominated government have correctly noted that the crisis in Myanmar takes the pressure off of Thailand’s comparatively minor protests. The cartoonist seems to joke that the U.N. envoy might see the unrest and injustice in Thailand rather than focusing on Myanmar.]

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It’s hopeless

From Manager, April 25, 2021
Man: Just eat me… I won’t fight anymore… Listen to the PM’s announcement… It’s hopeless.

[Refers to public disappointment toward the government response to handling the new outbreak of COVID-19. Not only has vaccination proceeded at a snail’s pace compared to other countries, but the government has stalled attempts to import additional brands of vaccine outside the ones they themselves have brokered. PM Prayuth was criticized for failing to communicate with the public on measures to contain the virus and economic assistance to those affected.]

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Songkran cartoons V: I punish your lust

From Manager, April 12, 2021
Rakshasa Devi: Because of your sexual yearning, my Songkran festival is totally destroyed.
Caption: It should….!! [something like “it should happen” or “it should be”]

[Refers to the new COVID-19 cluster occurring in super high class hostess bars in the Thonglor area and then later spreading nationwide. This led to strong criticism as many top government officials, politicians and foreign diplomats became infected–and it is suspected they caught it from these bars. Indeed, the top hostess bars have long been called “Government House II” due to the habitual patronage of government officials. In the cartoon the goddess of Songkran curses the lust of the politician who could not resist attending the bars and spreading the virus.]

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Songkran cartoons IV: Release our friends!

From Khaosod, April 15, 2021
Title: To be safe during Songkran, we must stay home!
Frog: Release our friends [calling for the release those denied bail and held for allegedly violating Article 112]
On the bowl: Happy New Year

[Refers to government’s last-minute campaign during Songkran to urge people to stay home to contain the rapid spread of COVID-19.]

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Songkran cartoons III: Virus goddess

From Khaosod, April 14, 2021
Title: COVID Rakshasa Devi ๒๕๖๔ [B.E.2564 or 2021] Go!

[Refers to this year goddess of Songkran Rakshasa Devi who rides this year’s symbolic animal, a pig. Instead of showing Rakshasa Devi, the goddess of the year is shown as COVID-19.]

From Manager, Apr 14, 2021
On the black box on the top: Economy. Annoying economy [the name of the column] Top right: Ngao [name of the cartoonist] Top left: Hey! This Songkran has COVID. They do not allow the splashing of water!?
Top Right: Why we can’t splash?
Bottom left: Here… it is!!
Bottom right:We splash with 78% alcohol.

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Songkran cartoons II: Medical goddess and masked pig

From Prachachat, April 12-14, 2021
Title: Songkran days ๒๕๖๔ [B.E.2564 or 2021]

[Refers to this year’s Songkran Goddess which is named named Rakshasa Devi who rides a pig. However, due to the severe spread of COVID-19, the cartoonist shows the goddess wearing the green uniform of the hospital staff instead of traditional Thai dress and the pig wears a mask.]

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Refocus on Prayuth!

From Thairath, April 7, 2021
Title: People’s unity for Thailand. Must overthrow Prayuth
PM Prayuth: Come to overthrow me if you can
On the signs: Article 112 [lese majeste]; Article 116 [sedition]; Slander; Deny bail; Threaten; Arrest for a long time [meaning the student protest leaders are being held without bail]
Phi Nooring: Release our friends
Mouse: Join hands every color

[This is a call to support the new Jatuporn-led anti-government group. The group was carefully composed to include a wide range of former protest leaders. This is why the mouse says “Join hands every color” and the people pictured in front have both Red shirt clapper feet and Yellow shirt clapper hands.
The new grouping seeks to refocus protest attention on unseating the government and dropping the calls for reform and discussion of the monarchy.
See also: Reverse tactics!]

From Naewna, April 8, 2021
Left: Ten will go to the protest on overthrowing the monarchy.
Right: Tu will go for overthrowing Prayuth
On the pants: Thaksin’s slave
Caption: Different, but the same prison [meaning they are linked to Thaksin]. Ten overthrows the monarchy. Tu burns the city. [refers to Red Shirt threats of arson in 2010]

[Red shirt leader Jatuporn “Tu” Prompan has started an anti-Prayuth protest group while Nattawut “Ten” Saikua maintains his support for the existing anti-monarchy group Ratsadon. The cartoon contends the actions of the two seem separate, but are both part of Thaksin’s plan.
However, in reality, there is no doubt a deep divide in former Red Shirt ranks with the core group continuing to support the student protesters and their focus on the monarchy. This seems completely opposed to Thaksin’s strategy as he has worked to make sure his party avoids the monarchy. That Jatuporn is being pushed forward as a new protest leader, along with Thaksin’s raising of his public profile again, shows that an effort is being made to pick up the momentum after the student protests have seemed to have gone nowhere recently.
See also: Reverse tactics!]

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Songkran cartoons I: One person, one bowl project

From Daily News, April 12, 2021
Title: Songkran; Happy; New Normal ๒๕๖๔ [B.E.2564 or 2021]
On a bowl: Kon La Khan project [one person, one bowl project]

[This cartoon shows PM Prayuth at left and Deputy PM Prawit at right in the giant bowl. Prawit is giving a bowl to people as the gift for Songkran. On the giant bowl is “Kon La Khan project” (“one person, one bowl project”). This is a joke referring to the government project “Kon la Khrueng” or “Let’s Go Halves” in which the government pays half of purchases from certain retailers to stimulate the country’s economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.]

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Don’t worry, student protesters! Thaksin sends Jatuporn & Red Shirts to the rescue!

From Thairath, April 6, 2021
Title: Take a rest, bro. I will handle it.
On Jatuporn’s back: Thais won’t accept it. People unite to overthrow Prayuth.
On students’ shirts: Ratsadon
On people’s shirts: People
Phi Nooring: Good match
Mouse: Get rid of the dictator

[This is one of the few mentions in the media supportive of Jatuporn attempting to form a new anti-government movement. It is from pro-Thaksin/Red Shirt cartoonist Sia. The cartoon shows the student protesters cheerfully saluting Jatuporn and apparently inviting him to take over the lead of their protests to confront Prayuth.
Elsewhere, the reveal of Jatuporn as the new leader of the movement was met with nearly universal ridicule–especially by those who see the issue of reform of the monarchy as the most important protest issue.]

[Below is a recap of recent political events and other perspectives. These are based on editorial cartoons which are, by their definition, opinions. However they can serve to illuminate various points that are not apparent from the bland international media coverage of events in Thailand.

December 2020: Shakeup in the Pheu Thai and Red Shirts in the government: Red Shirt pacifists?

October 2020: Initially student protesters conducted short, non-violent protests which were met with surprise in the Thai world where it is thought that only provoking violence can make a difference: Different tactics

October 2020: After a rally commemorating Thaksin’s ouster was unexpectedly taken over by anti-monarchy protesters, the Pheu Thai was hastily reorganized: Painting the Pheu Thai yellow

October 2020: If one is interested in different perspectives, this is cartoon with a defense of the monarchy as a counterbalance to dictators: Reform the monarchy following Hun Sen’s model

October 2020: The government thanking the new student protests for attacking the monarchy: Unscathed, for now…

September 2020: The student protesters did not follow Pheu Thai’s plan of attack: Hey! Wrong target!]

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Reverse tactics!

From Manager, April 5, 2021
On the Red Shirt’s shirts: We love Phra Borom [This is a literal translation of the phrase that uses “Phra Borom” as a shortened name to refer to King Rama X.]
Woman: Hey… Today you join our mob? [We think the translation of this should be more like a sarcastic question. The student with the 112 shirt, ignorant of the political machinations that underlie protests, does not know that the goal of reforming or removing the monarchy has been reversed and a new tact is being taken to unseat the government.]
Caption: Ha… ha… ha…

[The cartoon refers to the current attempt to re-form anti-government groups around Red Shirt Jatuporn. This effort would drop the attacks on the monarchy and instead focus solely on removing Prayuth as PM. Indeed, recent student protests also tried to re-center their goals on removing the prime minister, emphasizing that he is the source of all problems.

In the cartoon, the person with the 112 shirt is supposed to be a Thai, not a foreigner. The cartoonist shows him to be one of the rich city kids with lighter skin–a different affluent class that has been portrayed as making up the bulk of student protesters.

The other protesters are shown as stereotypical of the Red Shirts–wearing flip flops (as opposed to the student protester’s hip, expensive sneakers) and each with their bottled water and free meals served in styrofoam boxes by the protest organizers.

The veering from the single-minded goal of unseating the government and switching to the monarchy instead is thought to have been a lucky break for the government and limited wider support for the students. Thus, it is unsurprising that, as student protests stall, those who wish to unseat the government are attempting to recompose the protests under a new banner.

However, the reveal of Jatuporn as the new leader of the movement was met with nearly universal ridicule–especially by those who see the issue of reform or removal of the monarchy as the most important issue. There was one exception: Don’t worry, student protesters! Thaksin sends Jautporn and Red Shirts to the rescue!]

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Thanathorn’s landslide victories

From Manager, April 1, 2021
Caption: Continual landslide
Signs from top to bottom: PAO; Municipality; Head of Sub-district and village
Thanathorn: Not yet… still have some left

[Refers to Thanathorn who vowed to win a landslide victory in local elections. This would cement his image as a new consequential political figure with deep influence.
However, the results of the provincial administrative organizations (PAO) and municipality elections showed that his party performed poorly. The cartoonist jokes that local elections provide Thanathorn one last chance to show he is a politician with a wide base of support and not just one with an active social media base of young people.]

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Wake the dead to protest

From Naewna, April 1, 2021
On tombstone: Black May
Jatuporn: Wake up, wake up… my boss [meaning Thaksin] is ordering you guys come out to help get Prayuth out of his position.
Caption: Wake the dead..!!

[Thaksin has slowly raised his profile as the student protests lost steam and became more violent, no doubt seeking to reassert his control over anti-government movements.
The cartoonist shows Red Shirt Jatuporn who recently announced he would lead a new anti-government movement. Just like when the Red Shirts were first brought together years ago, a variety of disaffected groups and people were touted as being part of the new movement including activists demanding answers about the 1992 Black May protests.
The bringing up of old grievances to add to present protest efforts is often visualized as pulling corpses out of a grave.]

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Friends of tyrant criminals

From Thairath. March 30, 2021
Title: Military force in the sea of blood
On truck: Myanmar
On banner at left: Friends of tyrant criminals [This accuses ASEAN nations of not acting to stop Myanmar from their violent crackdown. ASEAN did take a hands-off approach with member states in the past, but, this time, some members such as Indonesia have strongly called for ASEAN action.]
On ground from left to right: Kill children; Against Coup; Kill people

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Old men wishing to play with the kids

From Manager, April 4, 2021
On sign at top left: Thammasat
Caption, left: Real youth
Caption, right: Old men wishing to play with the kids
Phumthan: Do you see the name?… We are the same group.

[Refers to the new group Octoberists for Democracy (OCTDEM) founded by some of those who participated in the political protests of October 14, 1973 and October 6, 1976. The group has shown its support for anti-monarchy and anti-government groups such as Restart Democracy (REDEM). Like the recent reappearance of Red Shirt Jatuporn trying to start a new anti-government movement, OCTDEM consists of people with close ties to Thaksin such as Phumtham Wechayachai and Prommin Lertsuridej.

Opponents of the anti-government protests like to point to the violence-prone Restart Democracy (REDEM) as the face of the student protests. However, there have been efforts to recompose the protest around new leaders and shed the confrontation of past protests.]

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Martyr me

From Thairath, April 1, 2021
Title: Only asking for the choice
Somyot says: Wishing for the death penalty to end all the problems and shorten time to a trial and then people don’t have to fight to release me.
On his shirt: Prisoner
In his hand: Justice; Death
Phi Nooring: Misery of the fighter
Mouse: Living with suffering

[Refers to political activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk who was jailed and accused of several infractions including Article 112 along with other anti-government protest leaders. The courts have rejected all requests for bail citing several factors including the leaders’ vows to habitually repeat speaking out against the monarchy. Due to this, Somyot called for death penalty to end all his charges and prevent his followers from having to fight to save him from injustice.]

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Unvanquished

From Naewna, March 25, 2021
Top: This one has already has a drug to vanquish it. [meaning there is a vaccine for COVID-19]
Bottom: This one has not had anyone vanquish him yet. [meaning Thanathorn and his potent discontent that is embraced by Thailand’s youth is still potent]

[This notes that the danger of COVID-19 is on its way to be solved, but political discontent has yet to be solved.
Noting that this is from a very pro-establishment newspaper, the meaning seems to imply that Thanathorn needs to be vanquished or stopped as if he were a disease.]

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Common ties

From Thairath, March 23, 2021
Title: Mission for security
Left title: In the city
On the cameraman: Press
On man: People
Right title: Border Right, soldier on the truck: Food you asked us to buy is arriving now.
Sign on the truck: Army
Sign on the gate: Thailand-Myanmar Phi Nooring: Friends need to help each other.
Mouse: Don’t care about the world [meaning they do not care about the world’s opinion]

[Refers to the relationship between the Thai government and the Myanmar military. Recently, there was news that the Thai army provided 700 sacks of rice to Myanmar’s military. The Thai army contended that they were asked by Myanmar’s military to purchase rice in compliance with border-ties cooperation agreements, which was a normal practice.
The cartoonist contends that both militaries are bent on violent harassment of their citizens.]

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They followed the Hong Kong model

From Manager, March 23, 2021
Joshua: You exactly followed my Hong Kong model… from the beginning to the end.
Caption: Joshua Wong must be happy.

[Refers to Thai anti-government leaders including Penguin, Anon and Rung (at left) who are now jailed. Early in the protests there was an attempt at synergy between the Hong Kong and Thai protests with each side sending words of support to the other.
Those opposed to the Thai protests accused the students of planning to “ruin” Thailand like they perceive was done by protesters in Hong Kong. This comes from a viewpoint that does not hold democracy as an important thing and instead lauds “order” that facilitates business and presumably prosperity.
The cartoonist sarcastically notes that the Thai protesters have matched the Hong Kong model after all and ended up in legal tangles created by governments with overwhelming power.]

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A crocodile laying down to block the canal

From Thairath, March 31, 2021
Title: Canal blocker
PM Prayuth: If you dare enough, then try to overthrow me.
On vessels left: Violate human rights; Economic problems; Dictatorship On vessels right: Freedom; Democracy; Development; Country
Signs held by people left to right: Overthrow Uncle; Overthrow Prayuth; Overthrow Uncle
Phi Nooring: Like a crocodile laying down to block the canal
Mouse: He is a problem.

[Refers to PM Prayuth who the cartoonist shows is like the situation in the Suez Canal and blocking many things.
This also references the Thai proverb “a crocodile laying down to block the canal” meaning a person who blocks everything and becomes an obstacle to move forward or develop.]

From Manager, March 31, 2021
Sign on right: Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem (canal)
Red Shirt Jatuporn: He has been stranded here for over 7 years already… lets move him out of the way!!
Caption: The Suez Canal [saga] is ended… but this canal [saga] is not not over yet.

[This shows Jatuporn who launched a new movement to reunite all the anti-government forces under a new Red Shirt-like banner. Eschewing royal reform, the movement is an attempt to reset the protest movements to a single, focused goal–paint Prayuth as a villain and remove him from office, allowing the opposition to return to power.]

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