Dolls, cartoon figures, balloons: activist’ new tactic for referendum campaign

After a series of arrests and the detention of junta opponents, activists across the country have come up with new tactics to campaign for fair play in the August referendum. Instead of hosting seminars, handing out flyers, and marching, they are using more creative non-violent protest methods like balloons, dolls, and cartoon figures. 

Hopes for a more open political climate crumbled last week when seven activists from the New Democracy Movement (NDM) were arrested and later detained for handing out flyers campaigning for a ‘No’ vote in the August draft charter referendum. This indicates that the junta is still oppressing its opponents despite the upcoming referendum where freedom of expression is crucial.
 
However, there is a silver lining. In the past week, activists nationwide have come up with more creative forms of protest than traditional styles of campaign. 

Police confiscate balloons

 
The first alternative style following the arrests of the seven activists is balloons. The NDM printed pink and purple balloons with the message “campaigning is not a crime.” The balloons first appeared in the media when NDM activists visited the detained seven activists at Bangkok Remand Prison. Police officers at the prison confiscated them, citing the junta’s order.
 
 
Plainclothes police officers confiscate balloon from NDM activists at Bangkok Remand Prison  (source: Matichon Online)
 
After that, other activist groups in various provinces including Pattani, Khon Kaen, and Chiang Mai also started using balloons to campaign for fair play in the referendum.
 
 
Balloons with the message ‘Campaigning is not a crime’ (Photo courtesy of the Liberal Assembly of Chiang Mai University for Democracy -- LACMUD)
 
 
NDM activists fly balloons at Bangkok Remand Prison, jokingly demanding authorities to free the seven to watch the Euro football matches with them 
 
 
Academics and NDM activists give balloons to Election Commission of Thailand officials, urging the Commission to conduct the August referendum freely and fairly (source: BBC Thai)
 
 
Pro-democracy activists and academics join the balloon campaign at Chiang Mai University in the northern province of Chiang Mai (source: LACMUD’s Facebook page)
 
 
Nidhi Eoseewong, a prominent academic, joins the campaign at Chiang Mai University (source: LACMUD’s Facebook page)
 
 
A policeman bars student activists in the Deep South from flying the balloons. After the event, the activists were taken to a police station and were forced to record their participation in a police daily report (source: Min Law Facebook account)

If we cannot speak, then let dolls speak for us    

 
On Wednesday, 29 June 2016, activists from the Liberal League of Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD) hosted a ‘Free Dolls for FREEDOM: Let dolls speak for us’ campaign at Thammasat University. The campaigners attached their written opinions on the referendum and the draft charter to dolls and cartoon figures in order to ask the junta for free and fair discussions.
 
According to the LLTD’s Facebook page, the event aimed to tell society that the junta has suppressed freedom of expression and created a climate of fear to the level that people have to let dolls speak for them since individuals who criticize the junta’s draft charter or the referendum might be prosecuted. 
 
The LLTD also invited the public to join the campaign by posting on social media pictures of dolls or cartoon figures with their written opinion on the referendum or constitution and attach the #FreeDollsForFREEDOM hashtag.
 
“Our country has come so far. We have our thoughts but can’t express them freely and safely so we have to let the dolls speak for us. The dolls look cute but deep inside, they’re full of sadness” said Man Pakon, an activist from the New Democracy Movement, a pro-democracy activist group, who joined the event.
 
 
 
Little Prince demands a free referendum 
 
 
“Yes!! We reject” says the War Machine.

Sherman says he will not go to vote in the August referendum