Pro-democracy protests first erupted in Thailand on academic campuses after the Constitutional Court dissolved the progresseive Future Forward Party (FFP) February 21, 2020. FFP advocated for restraining the military’s role in politics, decentralizing bureaucracy and improving socioeconomic equality. Protests, under the Free Youth movement, resumed in July in response to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. The first one was held at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok. Thai students compose a large portion of protestors, and they have three, main demands: “Resign, Rewrite, Reform.”
Protestors call for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to resign from his position. Prayuth Chan-ocha was responsible for reforming the constitution to give the military more power in Thai political institutions. They also wish to dissolve their parliament, the body that elected P.M. Chan-ocha, limit the power of the monarchy and revise their constitution. These demands are represented by the three-fingered salute from The Hunger Games.
Thai protestors use hand signs to coordinate large crowds to hand out supplies, like umbrellas, helmets and other protective gear, and dictate dispersal. These signs and the three-fingered salute are inspired by gestures used by Hong Kong protestors. Other similarities between protests in these two regions include the use of similar protective gear, like hardhats and goggles, use of human chains to hand-out supplies and the use of encrypted media platforms to mobilize protestors.
Similarities between the tactics protestors use and the pro-democratic goals of the protests in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan have led to the birth of the Milk Tea Alliance. The Milk Tea Alliance originated online after netizens from China and Thailand began arguing online about a seemingly pro-Hong Kong and pro-Taiwan social media post by a Thai actor and his girlfriend. Because each of those countries drinks a variation of milk tea, the name “Milk Tea Alliance” was born. The name is also a symbol of protest against China because it doesn’t typically drink tea with milk. Since its birth online, the Milk Tea Alliance has grown to include other countries across Southeast Asia.