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Friday, January 27, 2023

New Approaches To Anti-Government Protests

Youth protesters in Thailand implement creative means to make their demands heard

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Chatwan Mongkol
Chatwan Mongkol
A freelance journalist based in Bangkok, Thailand covering Thai politics

THAILAND. Bangkok. Youth in Thailand organized anti-government protests with new approaches including a Japanese-anime-inspired recital, eating McDonald’s and pomelos, all despite obstructions from officials. 

Over thirty-five anti-government events have been staged across the country to echo Free Youth’s protest on 18 July, emphasizing 3 main demands: dissolution of the parliament, an end of state harassment, and a more democratic constitution. More events are scheduled in the coming days.

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Local news reported several kinds of intervention attempts from civil servants of all levels to stop the events from happening. Activists faced harassment at their homes by both uniformed and undercover police. High school students faced threats of graduation disapproval by their teachers if they attended the events. University presidents issued letters not allowing protesters on campuses citing Covid-19 concern.

However, most protest organizers chose to defy those obstructions. Many came up with creative ways to project their voices.

Parody Japanese-inspired recital

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“The most delicious thing is taxpayers’ money,” protesters sang. “Dissolve the parliament!”

The parody lyrics were sung by over 1,000 protesters who gathered at the Democracy Monument on 26 July. The song was modified from the theme song of a Japanese anime, “Hamtaro” about a hamster whose favorite food is sunflower seeds.

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The original lyrics were, “The most delicious things are sunflower seeds.” Protesters then ran around the monument in a circle mimicking the song title, “Let’s Run, Hamtaro.”

One of the organizers said that the people are like hamsters in a cage. While the power structure has oppressed and destroyed the cage until it is almost broken, it is time that all the hamsters must run out of that cage with the hope of gaining rights, freedoms and equality.

Free burgers for democracy

Along with the anti-government recital that was organized by the youths, 52-year-old Sombat Bunngam-anong hosted an event giving out free McDonald’s hamburgers under the theme, “I am hungry, I will not bear it.” The event was held overlapping with the Hamtaro event at the same location.

The rule for a free burger was that Bunngam-anong would say the prime minister’s name, Prayut Chan-o-cha, and the participants must whisper the correct code words that would go after “Prayut” in order to get one. Bunngam-anong said people who are pro-democracy would know the code words.

Participants then joined the recital with the youths after they finished their meals.

“We have occupied this McDonald’s,” Bunngam-anong announced after the event as there were a lot of people joined. He said he spent more than 30,000 Baht.

Pomelos movement for free speech

“Whoa, delicious!” was the theme of an anti-government event on 27 July where people joined together in eating pomelos. The theme translates into Thai as “Som-o, O-ho, O-cha.” While o-cha in Thai means delicious, it is also a part of the prime minister’s last name, Chan-o-cha.

Each pomelo was displayed with messages on it including, “Dissolve the parliament,” “Amend the constitution,” “Stop harassing citizens,” “Civil partnerships bill,” “Conscription” and “Forced disappearance.”

The event was held under the idea of free speech. The organizer said those messages on the pomelos are issues that happened in the country but that no one dares to talk about.

Participants then ate the pomelos together.


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