Thai ‘Milk tea alliance’ stands against Chinese govt’s authoritarianism

By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela

Bangkok, Apr 17 (efe-epa).- Known as the “milk tea alliance,” thousands of internet users from Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong have formed this week a pro-democratic front in social networks against the authoritarianism of the Chinese Government and its supporters.

The informal movement – which began by defending itself against the insults of pro-Chinese Twitter users against Thailand due to the comments of a famous actor and his girlfriend by means of memes, jokes and irony – has ended up forming a social network group to combat Chinese “propaganda.”

The high point came with the intervention of the Chinese embassy in Thailand defending its “one China” policy on Facebook, referring to Hong Kong – a semi-autonomous Chinese territory – and Taiwan, a de facto independent country that Beijing considers a “rebel province.”

“First of all, I want to underline that the One China Principle is irrefutable…” the embassy said in a Tuesday message in which it also praised the good relations between its government and the Thai one.

However, the intervention only increased Internet users’ support for the so-called “milk tea alliance,” in reference to the popularity for this drink in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan, including that of the young Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong.

The controversy started last weekend when several Chinese users found actor Vachirawit “Bright” Chivaaree on Thai social media and started digging into old messages between him and his girlfriend.

They discovered that Vachirawit had shared a photo in which Hong Kong was said to be a country, while she had referred to Taiwan in one message and another that mentioned that a Chinese laboratory was being investigated over the new coronavirus.

When the insults began to increase from China, the actor apologized, but that did not stop Internet users, who began to criticize the Thai king and government.

A Chinese user posted the famous 1976 photo of a far-right man beating a university student who had previously been hanged during the crackdown on that year’s pro-democracy protests in Bangkok with a chair.

His Thai opponents responded by recalling the absence of the 1989 Beijing protests in the Chinese history books and even accepting criticism of the government and even the monarchy, despite the harsh majesty laws in Thailand.

Other discussions were more frivolous.

“Your food sucks,” a Chinese user wrote.

“And you eat bats,” a Thai user reacted, referring to the rumor that the COVID-19 pandemic started because someone became infected after eating a bat in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Under the label “Nnevvy,” the “alliance” has formed a Facebook group that already has more than 80,000 followers to attack Chinese government propaganda and defend causes such as the campaign against the dams built by Beijing on the upper reaches of the Mekong River.

Professor of Chinese History at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, Wasana Wongsurawat, told EFE that “a silly discussion” in the networks became, after the intervention of the Chinese embassy, ??a political confrontation between pro-democratic liberals and sympathizers of the Chinese and Thai governments.

“This shows the inability of governments (Thai and Chinese) to control the media on the internet and that their own citizens engage and acquire information beyond government propaganda,” she said in an email. EFE-EPA


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