Thousands join car protests ahead of no-confidence motion

On 29 August, protesters at-the-wheel struck again in at least 5 provinces to demand Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s resignation.

As announced last week by Nattawut Saikeur, Secretary-General of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, widely known as the Red Shirts, the “Car Mob Call Out” on Sunday is to be the last of its kind before the parliament no-confidence motion on 31 August. Further ‘escalation’ of the movement will be declared after the protest.

Voice TV reported that car protests took place in Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Ayutthaya, Amnat Charoen and Bangkok. 

According to the Bangkok Post, Sombat Boonngamanong, another organizer, said before setting out from Bangkok to Pathum Thani, that rallies will be held at the same place in every province indefinitely until the Prime Minister resigns.

During a press briefing before the rally, Nattawut said he believed that most people had cast a no-confidence vote against the PM ahead of the motion in parliament. The car movement is a message to MPs to think twice before supporting Gen Prayut, and decide whether to take sides with him or with the people.

In north Bangkok, people gathered at the Kasetsart intersection before following a 50 km route to Pathum Thani. People could be seen giving the protesters support by raising their hands in a 3 finger salute.

Meanwhile, the car protest in Chiang Mai organized by activist groups Wilar (Cat) Party, Prachakhom Mo Cho (Chiang Mai University People’s Community) and We, the People, rallied people from Chiang Mai and Lamphun to Chiang Mai Provincial Hall, hoping to meet the new Governor to pass on their demand to the Minister of Justice to have detained political activists treated for Covid-19 at proper hospitals outside the prison system.

A minor clash took place when the police blocked protesters from entering the provincial hall grounds. Balloons containing coloured water were thrown at the police who responded by briefly using a Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). In footage, a protester can be seen punching a police officer.

Daily protests in downtown Bangkok start on 2 Sept

Car protests have been common in Thai political history but became more popular while Covid-19 infection rates have been high as this kind of protest complies with social distancing measures and can attract a large number of supporters.

People show support for a passing car protest on 29 August.

The Bangkok group peacefully crossed the finish line at Pathum Thani Provincial Hall in the evening. Sombat and Nattawut announced that daily protests will be held at Asoke intersection every day from 16.00-20.00, starting on 2 September until Prayut resigns. 

Sombat said the protest is scheduled to allow people join after finishing work.

“On 4 September, parliament will vote. This is very important. If the coalition parties vote for the Prime Minister to stay on, it will be in conflict with the feelings of the people.

“Other provinces should have car mobs arranged. Bring the cars out and park them. Even though Prayut is brazen, I believe that in no more than 2 weeks, he will have to quit,” said Sombat. 

Thanat “Nat” Thanakitamnuay, an anti-Thaksin campaigner who has turned into a prominent pro-democracy activist, gave a speech saying that Members of Parliament will have a price to pay for voting in favour of Prayut, as the people are becoming more sophisticated in fighting dictators.

“Prayut, listen up. Senators, listen up. Coalition parties, listen up. The next no-confidence motion, whoever dares to vote to have confidence in Gen Prayut, you will face me,” said Thanat, who was blinded in the right eye by an unidentified projectile during the 13 August protest suppression.

Clash at Din Daeng, again

As the car protests went on, independent protestors went to Din Daeng intersection to face a wall of containers blocking Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, the route to Gen Prayut’s house in the barracks of the 1st Infantry Regiment, the King’s Guard.

Protesters retreat after the police use the tear gas.

These hard-core protesters are known by netizens as the Thalu Gaz group (pierce the [tear] gas), mocking the Thalufah (pierce the sky) pro-democracy activist group. This movement is beginning to take shape in response to the harsh police measures preventing peaceful protests from getting to Prayut’s house.

Protesters could be seen approaching the containers with firecrackers, Molotov cocktails, slingshots and whatever they could find at hand. When the crowd control police came out to arrest them or deployed water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets, they retreated and came back once the police had gone.

iLaw reported that some protesters beat up a person believed to be a plainclothes policeman. Komchadluek reported later that the person assaulted was a soldier. 

iLaw also reported police claims that a protester was seen using a home-made pistol. When asked about casualties from gunfire, police on the ground they said there were none because of the distance between police and protesters and the small size of the pistol.

The cat and mouse chases went on until after the 21.00 curfew. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 29 people related to the 20 August protest were arrested.

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