Bangkok : Thousands took to the streets in Bangkok’s central shopping district on Saturday (14 December), a day after Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party (FFP), called a protest.
Thanathorn invited people to join him at the Pathumwan Skywalk, after the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) moved to dissolve FFP.
The party has been seen by the military-aligned establishment as its main rival since the March 2019 election.
“We believe that it’s time for the people who will no longer tolerate the NCPO regime to show themselves, to show their willingness to participate in politics.” Thanathorn said in a Facebook video on Friday.
The demonstration took place at 17.00 on Saturday on the skywalk between MBK Mall and the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). Protestors arrived with signs, and shouted “Prayut get out!”
As Thanathorn arrived at the protest site, participants waved and held up their hands in the three-finger Hunger Games salute.
“This is just the beginning,” Thanathorn told the protesters at Pathumwan Skywalk. “Today is a show of our strength so that in future others may join us. We’re just here today as a test run. Prayut, don’t be afraid yet. The real thing is next month.”
Meanwhile, FFP Secretary-General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said “today is the beginning of showing our force, the expression that it is the people who have power in this country. This is the fight of the future for all of us Thai people.”
Before joining the protest, Thanathorn also signed an agreement with six opposition party leaders at an event at Thammasat University, pledging to push for amendments to the 2017 constitution, which was drawn up by the junta.
Police from Pathumwan Police Station said they had not received a request for a gathering in line with the law on public meetings, but have not said they would try to block it.
Reuters estimated that several thousand people took part in the protest, and that it is Thailand’s biggest protest since the 2014 coup. The crowd filled the skywalk and the courtyard in front of BACC, and remained after the demonstration officially concluded at 18.00.
"Joe" Apichatpong joins flash mob
Independent film director and winner of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Apichatpong Weerasethakul was among the crowd at today’s protest. Apichatpong is based in Chiang Mai and said that he doesn’t often attend events like these, but decided to come to today’s demonstration.
“I feel that we need some kind of expression that shows that this is no longer tolerable. There are many people who might not dare to come, but it’s training us to exercise our rights. It can be done and should be normal.
“Personally, I think we need to dissolve the current Election Commission and reform the military. Soldiers should not be in politics. It’s not their job. It’s not something they’re good at, their mindset and vision aren’t good for it. It’s not appropriate to run the country by the military’s rules.
“I want it to be heard that the people have limits. We will not tolerate this anymore,” Apichatpong said.
People began gathering at the Pathumwan Skywalk ahead of the 17.00 flashmob, after Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit yesterday posted a Facebook invitation forpeople to gather.
Participants at the FFP flashmob arrive with protest signs, while some, including the FFP MP and spokesperson Pannika Wanich, hold up their hands in the three-finger Hunger Games salute, an opposition symbol since the early days of the 2014 coup.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, FFP secretary-general and MP, arrived at the Pathumwan Skywalk with a sign saying "ข้ามหัวประชาชน" ("You disrespect the people")
Participants at the FFP flashmob wave and hold up the three-finger salute as Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit arrives at the Pathumwan Skywalk.
"When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty."
Flashmob in Chiang Mai
A demonstration at Chiang Mai's Tha Phae Gate at around 17.00, under the slogan "when our vote in Parliament means nothing, it's time for the people to make their voice heard."