“Meme-ification” of politics fueled by fed-up first-time voters who grew up amid conflict

Photo: Instagram/ Bougie Bangkok Girl and Twitter/ IRR Government
Photo: Instagram/ Bougie Bangkok Girl and Twitter/ IRR Government

In the streets today, millions of citizens braved the sweltering 34 Celsius heat and the world’s worst air pollution to venture to their district polling stations to cast their votes in Thailand’s first elections since 2011.

On the internet, meanwhile, hilarious (and vicious) memes were circulating on social media, fueled by several Thai election hashtags trending on Twitter. Among them was #ImgrownnowIcanchooseformyself, which started trending shortly after King Vajiralongkorn’s warning for citizens to support “good” leaders to prevent “chaos.”

The hashtag seemed to be a nod to Thai citizens’ weariness of being told what to do by people in power, as well as a possible indication of the particularly large number of first-time voters this year.  

Less than 2 percent of eligible voters in the last election, in 2011, were first-time voters. This year, that figure rose to nearly 14 percent — largely due to the long gap between elections (you know, the kingdom having been under military rule since 2014 and all that).

These first-time voters, having been born between 1994 and 2001, have lived through almost two decades of political tumult, witnessing three major periods of mass demonstrations, two military coups, and the administration of an unelected prime minister who writes pop songs.

With more millennials than ever becoming interested in politics, the conversation inevitably moved to social media with a host of hashtags, memes, statuses, and GIFs.

The online discourse has come to resemble a phenomenon known as “political meme-ificiation,” defined by Salon as “a purposefully designed visual framing of a position” — one that seeks to traffic in the vernacular of the net.

As social media has become increasingly prominent in political conversations world-wide, politicians in many countries, including our very own Prayuth Chan-o-cha, have sought to capitalize on it as a form of communication.

All that being the case, having a look at what’s trending online is imperative to understanding what’s going on in the heads of young Thai voters.

So, without further ado, Coconuts Bangkok submits for your consideration some of the top trends today regarding the Thai elections.

Let’s start off light and funny with this guy’s encouragement for citizens to vote — set, we can only imagine, to the tune of the viral hit “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen” song.

On a more serious note, one student activist showed up to the polling station with a bag over his head that reads “Ashamed for the Election Commission.” This year, the commission had been widely questioned for its integrity.

And despite many believing that Thailand’s military dictatorship enjoys a rigged playing field, some still see today’s vote as a chance to rid themselves of the junta.


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laew u ja pick krai aa

A post shared by bangkok memez for the mass (@bougiebangkokgirl) on

Some, meanwhile, were happy to let comparisons to pop culture speak for themselves.

While some are just excited to choose for themselves.

As of press time, the polls have closed. While conflicting, unofficial exit poll data is already starting to trickle out, the official results of the election will be announced by May 9.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that official results will be announced on May 8, when it will actually be announced by May 9. 

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