Caption: Trump in Suthep’s shirt Source: Thai Move Backward Institute

Meme Explainer: Thais compare Trump with Suthep

As his supporters stormed the US Capitol, Thai netizens have been busy photoshopping President Trump into the familiar shirt and whistle of Suthep Thaugsuban, a key figure behind the protests which led to the military coup in Thailand in 2014.

Thanks to photoshop, Suthep’s head was replaced with Trump’s. The Thai-flagged logos on Suthep’s shirt and wristbands were replaced with the American-flag logos. Some meme makers were seemingly in rush since the whistle on Trump’s neck is still on a Thai-flagged strap.

Caption: Trump in Suthep’s shirt with karaoke text of a song which the PDRC frequently used

Source: Basement Karaoke

After the Trump supporters invaded the US Capitol to obstruct the Congress from certifying the election result, meme photos of Trump in Suthep’s shirt were posted on many famous pages including Kai Meaw X, Basement Karaoke and the Thai Move Backward Institute, a meme page which mocks the right-wing Thai Move Institute.

Caption: Trump in Suthep’s shirt

Source: Thai Move Backward Institute

In a photo caption, the Thai Move Backward Institute said in parody that "300,000 votes in Texas have more quality than 77 million votes for Joe Biden." The statement was adapted from a speech by a right-wing activist Dr. Seri Wongmontha in 2013 who said that 300,000 votes in Bangkok had more quality than 15 votes which chose the government. 

In contemporary Thai anti-autocracy sentiment, Trump and his supporters are compared to the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a former minister from Surat Thani, which held protests to shut down Bangkok in January 2014 and obstruct the election the following month. With the Thai Constitutional Court’s nullification of the election and the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the PDRC successfully created a political vacuum which led to the military coup in May 2014.

The Trump supporters have used many tactics similar to the PDRC, including seizing government buildings, obstructing and intimidating voters, and accusing the political opponents of election fraud. There are reports revealing that some government officials saw the insurrection coming but looked away. However, the US Supreme Court and other courts rejected all complaints about election fraud in the latest election.

Caption:  Pro-Trump protesters and PDRC protesters compared

Source: Basement Karaoke

There have been other interpretations of the event by Thai netizens. For example, Thai conservatives comment with joy that it is time for the US to “taste their own medicine” since they were allegedly behind pro-democracy protests in Thailand. In September last year, the US Embassy in Thailand released a “Statement Refuting Disinformation” saying that the US government did not fund or support any of the protests.

Thai conservatives also called on human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, the National Endowment for Democracy and Amnesty International, to take a stance in defending pro-Trump protesters in the same way that they have defended pro-democracy protesters in Thailand.

Caption: Trump getting help from Suthep during an exam.
Kai Meaw X 

However, Amnesty International USA released a statement in condemnation of Trump’s action. Claiming that the President’s “refusal to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power has put human rights, public safety and the rule of law at grave risk in the United States” and that his “embrace of white supremacist groups and extremists has further fanned the flames of the chaos and violence we witnessed today, putting human rights and the rule of law at grave risk in the United States”, they asked that “all U.S. officials must respect, protect, and fulfill human rights, including the right to be free from violence, intimidation, and racism.“

After the riot which ultimately led to 5 deaths, the US Congress reconvened to successfully certify the election result despite objections from pro-Trump Republicans. Some of the participants in the insurrection have been arrested

The President-elect Joe Biden will take office on 20 January. Trump announced that he would not participate in the inauguration ceremony. In response, Biden said "one of the few things he and I have ever agreed on, it's a good thing, him not showing up."


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