Protest takes over street with drag queens, open mics and cover dances

Pro-democracy protesters gathered at Ratchaprasong intersection on 25 October demanding that the state free arrested protesters, and underlining the demands for the PM to resign, for amendments to the constitution and monarchy reform.

Protesters occupy Ratchadamri Road at Ratchaprasong intersection.

The gathering was announced the day before at the Bangkok Remand Prison protest by the Anonymous Party, another protest organizer. At 16.40, police officers came with an order for the organizers to end the protest, as they did not notify the authorities beforehand.

The protest went on until 21.20 when participants dispersed.

There were 3 new features about this protest in comparison to recent protests: the absence of crowd control police and their resistance against protesters; the shopping malls in the area remaining open; and the small-scale events within the protest site.

20 megaphones were reportedly provided and scattered around the site, allowing anyone who wanted to give a speech to step up. Many issues were brought up, including gender equality, economics, politics, monarchy reform, etc.

The only organized activity was a call for protesters to raise the three-finger salute at 18.00, shout "Prayuth get out" together at 20.00, and at 20.10 to shout "Very brave. Very good. Thank you."

"Very brave. Very good. Thank you" are the words that King Rama X used to a pro-monarchy protester that he met on 23 October. The words went viral a short while after that and could be seen on placards, graffiti and banners around the 25 October protest.

Open space for everyone

The open mics were set up on the principle that anyone can be a leader. In front of the Big C Ratchadamri department store, protesters took turns giving speeches on a variety of topics from politics and urban planning to natural resources and gender equality.

Around 20.00, songwriter Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan, lead singer for the pop band The Bottom Blues, spoke about his arrest along with other activists in front of Satriwithaya School on 13 October 2020.

He said that when they were put into police vehicles, some of them were dragged, some were beaten, and that every police officer who was involved in the arrest hid their names and ranks. The officers also did not tell the activists where they were being taken to and confiscated their phones before taking them to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters.

Chaiamorn said that at the municipal court, despite a rule prohibiting the use of mobile phones, the judge left the room to take a phone call at least five times, and he had to ask the judge to rule on their case because people were still waiting for them outside, instead of keeping them in court until midnight.

He said that while he was in prison, he was supported by Nattawut Saikua. He said that Nattawut told him that taking care of one’s mind in prison is important, and that he was imprisoned as a fighter, not a convict, and therefore must act like a fighter.

Chaiamorn said that 19 activists were imprisoned along with him. He said he could tolerate it, while Jatupat was already used to it, but he was worried about those with health issues who were also arrested. Some of his friends were crying every day that they were in prison, so they supported each other by writing letters.

He slept next to Jatupat for the first few days, but they got into a fight while playing checkers, so he moved to sleep next to a Red Shirt inmate. He also mentioned he asked Nattawut whether they would win this time, and Nattawut said that he could already smell freedom.

“It’s true when people say ‘everyone is a leader.’ During the 6 days I spent in prison, you’ve made a big change for me,” Chaiamorn said before inviting people to sing his hit song “1 2 3 4 5 I love you,” with “I love you” in the chorus changed to “free my friends.” The song has now become common at protests.

Dance and drag

A group of drag queens also joined the Ratchaprasong protest, saying that they aimed to ease the tension in the protest as well as to speak about gender issues and to support the protesters' demands.

Drag queens raise 3 fingers at the protest at Ratchaprasong.

One of the drag queens called First said that social inequality has led to discrimination, especially gender-based discrimination. She believes that if society is democratic, there will be less inequality and less discrimination.

“Khana Rat Dance” performance group is seeking public space for every group of people. Representatives Anna and Nat said that they were inspired by protests in Korea, where people danced to protest against the presidency, and invited their friends to join the protest.

They said that the group wants to open up space for a variety of styles of dance, and said that anyone can join if they want to, which is why they said many people joined their activity.

The pair said that many teenagers today are dancing in malls, meaning that they don’t have any real space for expression, and spaces in malls are only used for rehearsals. Teenagers deserve their own space to shine.

Khana Rat Dance performed at the Ratchaprasong protest.

They also said that if politics is good, people will be encouraged to express themselves in many ways, and that if we have a good constitution, no one’s expression will be limited, and there won’t be arrests such as happened to Jatupat, Panusaya, or Parit.

Protesters show solidarity with One China victims

The “Progress” Pride flag, the Uyghur flag, the Black Bauhinia flag of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, the Tibetan flag, and the flag of the Taiwanese independence movement were seen at the protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection.

This set of flags had also been seen at other previous protests. Nanthida, who was holding the Pride flag, said:

“We stand by the principles of human rights. We are protesting because we shouldn’t see our fellow humans, regardless of ethnicity, language, or religion, be threatened by dictatorship, feudalism, and violence. No matter if it’s protesting about things in our country, in a neighbouring country, or for fellow humans of the world, it’s helping each other to have equality and not be threatened by dictatorship, which is an issue a lot of places in Asia are now facing.”

Ratthasat, who was holding the flag of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, said that the people of Tibet and Hong Kong, and the Uyghur people are facing violations of democracy and human rights by the Chinese Communist Party and from the One China policy, which is destroying other identities.

He said that he brought the flags to the protest to show his support and to show that they are not fighting by themselves, as well as to show that they understand the issues faced by other people in the world. He also demanded that the Chinese government release 12 Hong Kong youths who are currently in detention for trying to leave the country.

Source: 
https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/10/90142