Students lead mass protest against dictatorship at Democracy Monument

The student group Free Youth Movement organized a public demonstration at the Democracy Monument on the evening of Saturday (18 July) to protest against the government and call for the dissolution of parliament and constitutional amendments, and for the authorities to stop harassing citizens exercising freedom of expression.

Protestors began gathering at the Democracy Monument around 17.00 

The protest began at 17.00. Before the start of the protest, more potted plants were added to the decorative garden surrounding the Democracy Monument, filling the space on the footpath. A row of uniformed police officers also stood behind the fence surrounding the monument. 

Bangkok Metropolitan Administration personnel were seen adding plants to the garden around the Democracy Monument earlier in the day. 

A police crowd control unit was seen near the monument at around 18.30. A Prachatai reporter also spotted a water cannon truck heading towards the protest site at around 19.00.

A large number of officers were deployed around the area, as well as stationed inside Satriwithaya School. At one point during the evening, protestors also shouted out that they saw officers on the upper floors of a school building.

Uniformed officers stood behind the fence around the Monument.

Officers clashed with protestors early on in the evening as the group tried to remove the metal fencing placed around the protest area.

At 21.20, plainclothes officers attempted to take away two protestors, claiming that content of their banner is an offense against the monarchy, but other protestors stopped them and forced the officers from the scene.

A police crowd control unit (top) and a water cannon truck (bottom) were spotted near the protest.

During the protest, student representatives took turns giving speeches, including Student Union of Thailand (SUT) President Juthatip Sirikhan, student activist Parit Chiwarak, and student activist Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattaraksa, as well as a student from King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, who said that the 2014 coup reflected that the lack of people’s representation has damaged the rule of law and national prosperity, and who also criticized a person, who he did not identify, who spends taxpayer money to fly in and out of Thailand without having to undergo the required 14-day quarantine.

Panupong Jadnok, one of the activists from the Eastern Youth Leadership group who protested in front of the the DVaree Diva Central Rayong Hotel during Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visit on 15 July also joined the protest.

Panupong Jadnok giving his speech.

“Another summons was delivered to my house today,” he said during his speech. “If you think that you can use these summonses to stop me, you think wrong. People like me are born only once and die only once. I was just holding up a sign saying ‘“Don’t let your guard down, dad’ and you can’t take it. If you can’t take it, then you shouldn’t be prime minister and should just resign.”

Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa also gave a speech, leading protestors in a chant in support of political refugees either dead or alive, prisoners convicted under the lèse-majesté law, and Tiwagorn Withiton, the Facebook users who posted a picture of himself wearing the viral “I lost faith in the monarchy” t-shirt and who was forcibly admitted to a psychiatric hospital last week.

“We are calling for the dissolution of parliament because this government came from an unfair election. After the election, the Future Forward Party was dissolved. We are calling for state officials to stop threatening citizens, to not be a slave to dictatorship, and to draft a new constitution, because no constitution anywhere gives a dictator the power to appoint 250 senators to vote for himself to be prime minister. That is shameless,” said Anon.

Anon Nampa on stage at the protest

Rap Against Dictatorship and the Commoner Band also performed during the protest.

Rap Against Dictatorship performing at the protest

At 19.00, the organisers asked the protestors to turn on the flashlights on their phones and hold them towards the Democracy Monument. According to the organisers, this activity lasted 112 seconds.

Protestors turning on the flashlight on their phones (top) and holding their hands up in the three-finger 'Hunger Games' salute (bottom) towards the Democracy Monument.

At 20.45, representatives of the Free Youth Movement read out a statement, in which they make the following three demands:

  1. The dissolution of the Palang Pracharat-led parliament which has failed to handle the Covid-19 situation;
  2. An end to harassment by the authorities of people who are exercising their freedom of expression;
  3. The replacement of the current constitution, which favours the regime, with a new one which is meant for the benefit of the people.

They also announced that they will give the government 2 weeks to respond to their demands, or they will escalate their activities.

The student group Spring Movement also joined the protest, handing out yellow ‘missing person’ posters with the pictures and names of victims of enforced disappearance, such as Somchai Neelapaijit, Haji Sulong Tomina, Surachai Sae Dan, and Siam Theerawut. Protestors could be seen holding up the posters in front of the McDonald’s next to the Democracy Monument.

Protestors holding up the 'missing person' posters

The 'missing person' posters handed out by a group of members of Spring Movement.

A smaller gathering, led by Parit and the SUT, also formed at Kok Wua Intersection, about 500 metres away from the main protest, blocking off traffic coming towards the Democracy Monument.

The main protest took up about a quarter of the Democracy Monument roundabout, in front of McDonald’s and Satriwithaya School, and grew from around 500 protestors at the beginning to around 2000. The hastags #เยาวชนปลดแอก (#FreeYouth) and #respectdemocracyTH are also currently trending on Twitter, as they are being used to share information about the protest.

Around 21.30, two men were seen running through the crowd and tried to tear down the organisers’ tent, causing a disturbance among the protestors before security personnel were able to control the situation and take the two men out of the area.

At 23.15, protestors were still sitting on the road by the Democracy Monument, while the organisers screened the music video for “To Whom It May Concern,” rap artist Liberate P’s latest work.

The organisers previously announced that they would stay at the Democracy Monument until 8.00 on Sunday (19 July). However, at midnight, they decided to conclude the protest for safety reasons.

Representatives of Free Youth Movement and the SUT announced the end of the protest.

At around 00.40, as the crowd was dispersing, a man wearing a face mask was seen leading the organizing team into Satriwithaya School, telling them that he would take them home, but when the team saw police vans parked inside the school, they ran out. An unidentified person also reportedly tried to close the school gate as they left.

The man claimed that he volunteered to take the organisers home safely and insisted that he had no ill intention. He said that he contacted a friend who is a political activist and asked for him to organize some vans, but later found that these were police vans. He also said that he was unable to contact this friend afterwards.

The man in the mask (front, center) leading members of the organising team into the Satriwithaya School

The organizing team then left the protest area, accompanied by Move Forward Party MP and former activist Rangsiman Rome.