Before a movie is shown in a Thai cinema, the national anthem is always played first, and the audience must stand up and pay tribute to the royal family. During the 70-year reign of the revered last Thai king Pu Meipeng, few people did not abide by this tradition. Nowadays, more and more cinema audiences can't afford to sit up when the national anthem is played, which reflects the rising anti-royal sentiment among the people.
Recently, when the latest James Bond film was shown in a film studio in Bangkok, nearly half of the audience of about 60 people couldn't get up during the national anthem. If it had been a few years ago, it would have caused dissatisfaction or even been attacked by others. For example, in 2019, a female audience was beaten like this; Last year, a male audience was splashed with drinks.
In 2007, the political activist Zotesa was thrown popcorn and water bottles because he didn't stand up when the national anthem sounded and was driven out of the cinema. He was also charged with insulting the royal family, although the charge was later dropped.
Tirzah said that he found that in recent months, more and more people like him were doing this in cinemas. "Times have changed ... Not standing up when the national anthem is played is actually the same thing as demonstrating."
He said that even people who didn't pay attention to politics began to do this because they were no longer afraid of being attacked by royalists. "The number of royalists is getting smaller and smaller, they can't change the younger generation, and they don't accept it ... now, compared with 10 years ago, it is very different."
In the past 15 months, anti-government demonstrations continued. In addition to demanding that Prime Minister Ba Yu step down, the demonstrators also shouted for a constitutional amendment and monarchy reform, including weakening the power of the Thai King.
In Thailand, it is taboo to talk about the royal family, and political parties also avoid touching on issues related to the royal family, but now the situation has changed. Last week, the largest opposition party, the Thai Party, joined the democratic party Kadima Party in calling for the revision of the strict laws on offending the monarch.
According to this law, anyone who slanders, insults, or threatens the king, queen, crown prince, or regent can be sentenced to up to 15 years' imprisonment.
The current King of Thailand, Waji Lalong, is far behind his father. He settled in Germany for many years. Until last year, he was in China in order to improve his image. After he succeeded to the throne in December 2016, the military government amended the law to let the King of Thailand take over the Royal Asset Management Bureau and firmly control the financial power.
It is estimated that the Thai King's assets are as high as 30 billion US dollars (about 40.5 billion Singapore dollars). The unpopular Thai king has huge wealth, which makes opponents more resentful. Some people graffiti the portrait of the Thai King in public places; Some people put on the vest that the Thai King loves to wear to ridicule and vent their dissatisfaction; When it comes to royal festivals, most people no longer wear yellow clothes that represent the auspicious colors of the royal family.
Ruth, a professor of history and Thailand studies at Cornell University in the United States, pointed out: " (Thailand) demonstrators ... want to expose the social norms maintained by the ruling group, and the king is the top of this norm."