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Walking a tightrope as a democracy advocate in Thailand

In Thailand, protestors are not ready to give up their fight for democracy. Journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk, the latest in our Global Voices of Freedom series, explains what’s at stake.

An impressive black-and-white picture, by Italian photographer Jan Daga, shows an August 2020 protest: lines of young students walk hand-in-hand down a Bangkok street followed by cohorts of heavily armed police. At the front of the scene, reporting live from the battleground of Thai democracy, stands a sole journalist with a smartphone – Pravit Rojanaphruk.

The 51-year-old journalist works as a senior staff writer for Khaosod English (“fresh news”). Formerly, he wrote a regular column for the Nation, an English-language newspaper in the country, but was pressured to resign due to his political opinions following the 2014 coup d’état. Since then he has gained a reputation as one of the most prominent champions of democracy and freedom of expression in South Asia – and has consequently been called an “enemy of the people” and arrested several times.

protest bangkok
Jan Daga

In a conversation as part of SWI’s Global Voices of Freedom series, Rojanaphruk mentions repeatedly a key stumbling block for democracy in his country – the so called “lèse majesté” law, which bans all criticism of the monarchy.

Supporters of a modern democracy in Thailand indeed find themselves walking something of a tightrope. Thousands of mainly young protesters have been arrested and imprisoned since Jan Daga snapped his iconic picture last summer. For his part, Pravit Rojanaphruk is still marching at the forefront of this important movement for freedom of expression and people power: as a professional reporter and an ardent supporter of democracy.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR