Foreigners tell of their hopes and interests at the 19 Sept protest

Foreigners attended the protest at Thammasat University to show their support for the people of Thailand and their fight for democracy. The use of social media has greatly contributed to the expansion of foreign participation in protests.

A protester with a Guy Fawkes mask at the 19 Sept protest.

Protests have gained a lot of traction in Thailand over the past two months and the one on 19 September 2020 is considered to be the biggest yet since the 2014 coup. The two-day protest saw about 50,000-100,000 protesters in attendance, bringing together people from all walks of life, including foreigners.

James Buchanan, a political risk consultant and current lecturer at Mahidol University International College, talked about the issues faced by the LGBTQ community in Thailand, particularly two types of obstacles; legal, and social and cultural.

(Right) James Buchanan

“Firstly, legal, because obviously some of the laws are not LGBT-friendly at the moment. So that’s one obstacle. And obviously with the government that’s in power at the moment, they’re less likely I think to make fairer laws than a more progressive government.”

“Even for example, the more kind of left wing or more progressive people, like even activists in the activist community, there are still some adjectives towards the LGBTQ issues that are not so progressive,” said Buchanan.

David Pfizenmaier, a protester from Germany, attended the protest dressed as Superman.

David Pfizenmaier

“It's important as a human being, for human rights, living here and supporting society, to stand together. If you’re Thai or not Thai, if you’re living here and you want to have progress for society, [to move] in a good direction, it's good to stand together.”

Pfizenmaier has been living in Bangkok for 10 years with dual citizenship. He has a foundation called Superman Bangkok which does a lot of social and charity work. After seeing a lot of positive feedback about the Superman costume, David decided to take the positive effect that the costume has on people and use it for a good cause.

“The most important thing I hope is it stays safe and non-violent. And I hope it will be a development in a good direction”, Pfizenmaier said.

He adds that he is optimistic with the direction the movement is headed in because even though it started with only young people leading the protest, there are now people from all parts of society taking part in the protest.

Some of the foreign protesters had their own personal reasons for attending the protest. One of the protesters from the US said he only attended the protest to see people’s behaviour and to “see girls too”. Another protester from the US said that he was there to support his Thai friends and witness history being made.

Napathsakorn ‘Neal’ Seraneeariyaporn, a 29-year-old Thai architect, said she appreciates that foreigners are taking part in the protest because it means that the country is ‘moving in the right direction’. An example that Neal gave to show the growth of foreign support of protests in Thailand is the Milk Tea Alliance, an online pro-democracymovement that includes Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The rally was initially opposed by Gen Prayut Chan-o cha who said that the protest would delay the economic recovery of the country and “create uncertainty among tourists who will come to Thailand”. He also said that the protest would undermine the government’s efforts to curb the rise of Covid-19 in the country. The speech was made two days before the protest but people disregarded it and attended the rally anyway.

Bamaejuri is a Prachatai English intern from Mahidol University International College (MUIC)