Voices from the Democracy Monument dream of the future

The mass protest at the Democracy Monument on Sunday (16 August) has now been dubbed the largest protest in Thailand, after more than 20,000 people joined the demonstration which started at 15.00 and went on until around 23.00.

The crowd around the temporary stage at the Democracy Monument before the beginning of the demonstration on 16 August.

On the main stage, speakers took turn giving speeches about many issues, including violations of human rights in schools, gender equality, labour rights, and the issues facing people in the Deep South provinces. They also pressed the three demands made at the mass protest on 18 July: stop harassing citizens, draft a new constitution, and dissolve parliament.

The group also added that the demands are made on the conditions that there must not be a military coup or a national unity government, and that there is “one dream,” in which they hope to see a democracy with the monarch under the constitution.

Prachatai spoke to a number of participants in the demonstration, including a group of student observers from Chulalongkorn University, a family with a young child, a man campaigning for a more open beer production law, Spokedark TV’s Winyu Wongsurawat, and art critic Thanom Chapakdee, about their goals in joining the protest. 

Student observers: we’ll stand with democracy

Students set up a table and hand out raincoats and water bottles to protesters. 

Members of three student organisations from Chulalongkorn University, the Faculty of Political Science Student Union, the Faculty of Arts Student Committee, and the Student Government of Chulalongkorn University (SGCU), joined the protest as observers, setting up a table on the footpath along Ratchadamneon Road, handing out raincoats, water, and snacks to protesters.

“We are observing today because there are a lot of Chulalongkorn students joining the protest,” said one member of the group. “What we can do is come here and make it known that we are here, we support them and help them.”

The student said that they have brought first-aid kits with them, and that they have a group chat where students can let them know if there is any problem, as well as checking in to let the group know they have made it home safely when leaving protest ground after dark.

When asked if there are any concerns in coming to the demonstration, the student said “Everyone has fears. There are rumours that something might happen, but since we have already decided to come, we definitely have to come. We are here to take care of our friends and all of our brothers and sisters.”

The student said that they did not meet any resistance from their lecturers or university administration in deciding to come to observe the protest. She said that the lecturers have been helpful, telling the students that they can give them a call if they need help, but they did not show their support openly.

“The standpoint of all three organizations is always to support democracy, therefore, whatever we do, we will stand on the side of democracy, and help those who share our ideology here,” said the student, who noted that the Faculty of Arts Student Committee has a policy in which they support the rights, freedom, and democracy of students and society, and that recently they have been running a station where students can sign iLaw’s petition for constitutional amendments, an activity which they may continue.  

“Here for our child’s future”

A family with a young child came from Pathum Thani to join the demonstration, holding a sign saying “Here for our child’s future”. When asked about their dreams of the future, the parents said that they would like to see a more equal world and a new government.

While there is an impression that protesters are often students, the couple noted that they also notice working people and older people joining the protests. They also said that the protesters were friendly and were there because of something they believe in.

“It’s time that change needs to happen. Right now, frankly, we’re not here for our own future, but for our child’s future. He shouldn’t have to grow up with something like this, so we have to join and show our power. Even if we’re just a small voice, we want to come and encourage everyone,” said one of the parents.

An open craft beer law

One man brought bottles of craft beer made by Thai manufacturers and lined them up on the street next to the Democracy Monument in a symbolic campaign for a more open beer production law. He said that the current legal requirements benefit large manufacturers, while limiting smaller breweries.

When asked about what he would like to see, if the law is changed to open the door to small breweries, he said that he would like to see the day where each region of Thailand has its own local beer that is made from local produce.

Winyu Wongsurawat: Students’ 10 demands are not an insult to the monarchy  

Winyu Wongsurawat (left)

Spokedark TV’s Winyu “John” Wongsurawat was also at the protest. He said that he was there to show support as much as he can as part of the media, and that he was concerned about safety and that he doesn’t want any violence to be committed against the students again. He also said that the fact that the authorities are still harassing the people while Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha said he will listen to the students is hypocritical.

“It’s a lie from a dictator who has been like this since before the coup, during the coup, until now. I’m not surprised, but I didn’t expect them to be this cruel,” said Winyu. “If there is anyone who is still thinking about joining and supporting the kids, the new generation, you might not be sure this time, but if there is next time, I would like you to be out here if possible.” 

Winyu also said that the students’ 10 demands for monarchy reform are not an insult to the monarchy. He said that he has talked to legal experts and they did not find that these demands broke the law, and added that he does not want this issue to be used to paint the students in a negative light.

“We need real democracy”

An old man was seen by the Democracy Monument, holding a sheet of paper with the message: “We need real democracy.” When asked why he joined the protest, he said:

“I came to the protest because I have never seen any prime minister lie to the people this much in my life. He lied to other countries that we don’t have violations of rights. He lied that he will listen to the young people, but people still get harassed. What I would like to see the country change is that it has to follow the students’ 10 demands. Those 10 demands are the best. If we could do it, then the country will really be a democracy.”

“I walked past them, they cursed me for being a red buffalo, so I said thank you”

Thanom Chapakdi

Art critic Thanom Chapakdi had been around Ratchadamnoen Road since noon, and told Prachatai about walking past the pro-monarchy protest, who called him a “red buffalo.” Thanom said that he said “thank you” back.

Thanom said of the fact that over 10,000 people joined the anti-government demonstration that it is the younger generation going beyond the limits, and that what young people are expressing and proposing has gone further than the older generation has predicted.

He compared the protest to the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, and said that the 10 proposals for monarchy reform are ordinary and about something that has been repressed by fear for a long time, and the students have spoken on behalf of a lot of other people.