The protest started at around 5 pm on Saturday and took over the base around the Democracy Monument in the centre of Bangkok. The organisers presented themselves as ‘Free Youth’ and used the occasion to issue demands to the government including a return to what they termed full democracy by a rewriting of the 2017 Constitution to return power to the people.
Hundreds of students and young people protested against the Thai government on Saturday evening and into the night at the Democracy Monument in the Phra Nakhon area of central Bangkok.
The enthusiasm of the crowd and the confidence with which they protested was notable as they presented three key demands. These included the dissolution of the House of Representatives, a rewriting of the 2017 Constitution and an end to what they termed as legal harassment of regime opponents by the government.
The large protest by young people, involving many hundreds in Bangkok, appeared to take authorities by surprise on Saturday as it took off at around 5 pm when a large crowd gathered at the Democracy Monument in the heart of the city.
‘Free Youth’ protest joined by some members of the public as hundreds gathered at Democracy Monument
The protest by students and members of the public was organised by a group called Free Youth. The protest continued late into the night with those attending, at one point, using lights on their smartphones to create a show which the protest leaders called light into the night.
Police reports indicate that the crowd included hundreds of people with a large police presence also in place monitoring the event which, except for isolated incidents and scuffles, was generally peaceful.
Senior police appeared to indicate that the rally could continue but also warned those involved to be aware of the danger and health threat posed by the Covid 19 virus.
Protest kicked off at 5 pm on Saturday
Earlier on, plainclothes security forces were seen as the protest activity commenced including some individuals seen filming participants.
There were several incidents during the course of the protest including a crowd containment barrier, to protect traffic through the area, being forcefully pushed back.
There were also unconfirmed reports of a bus containing protestors being stopped while travelling to the venue.
The protest began at approximately 5 pm when the act Rap Against Dictatorship set up and began beating out anti-establishment songs.
Crowd highly critical of the government and in particular the handling of the Covid 19 emergency
The Secretary-General of Free Youth, Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, addressed the crowd at 5.20 pm and tore into the current government and its handling of the Covid 19 crisis.
‘Some 500,000 of us are about to lose our jobs. How can we go on from here? The outbreak has almost been contained but the government dropped its guard and allowed infected VIP guests to enter,’ he proclaimed.
He was joined by Mike Panupong, the Chairman of a group called Eastern Youth for Democracy, the Chairperson of the Student Union of Thailand, Juthathip Sirikan and Non Nattachon from an organisation called Eastern Youth.
9.20 pm confusion and some violence broke out
There was a melee and some violence at one point during the protest when confusion broke out after a man switched off cameras filming the event for the crowd.
He was restrained quickly by other individuals.
It is understood that some among the crowd attacked those who had attempted to restrain him.
These are reported to have been volunteer guards acting to maintain safety at the event.
Several people required first aid after the situation was clarified and peace restored.
Protestors sang the national anthem as their leaders made 3 key demands of the government
At 6 pm, the protest halted and those standing on stage stood for the national anthem which was played and sung by the crowd. ‘No one hates the nation here,’ one leader shouted.
As the rally went on, the leaders reiterated their three demands.
They demanded the dissolution of the House of Representatives, an end to harassment of those who opposed the government and the rewriting of the constitution.
It is understood that they are referring to a number of legal proceedings and police investigations into the activities of some opposition activists which authorities see as a violation of the law.
‘We want the government to do two things,’ Mr Tattep told the crowd. ‘Stop harassing people and dissolve the House because the government is utterly ineffective.’
He then called for the 2017 Constitution to be rewritten referring to it as a ‘sinful legacy’ which prolongs the current government. He called for power to be returned to the people.
Student Union leader warned the government to wind down ‘controlling’ State of Emergency
The speakers at the protest also called for an end to the current State of Emergency to tackle the Covid 19 virus and were critical of the government’s approach.
A sharp warning was issued by Parit Cheewarak of the Student Union of Thailand who said: ‘The emergency decree has been used to control people. The more it continues to be abused without legitimacy, the less sacred it becomes. Lift the decree immediately or the people will take the matter into their own hands.’
Organisers urged protestors to use smartphones to light up the night to see ‘how dark it has become’
As the evening turned into night, Juthathip Sirikan of the Students Union, then asked the crowd to switch on their smartphones in front of the historical monument to democracy. He said the purpose of this was ‘to show how dark it has become’.
This was followed by calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, who featured, unflatteringly, on many placards.
Progressive, student protest that says it will be back if the demands are not met within two weeks
This was very much a progressive stand organised and attended by Thailand’s youth and students. However, during the day they were joined by some members of the public.
As the night went on, the organisers indicated that the rally would end on Sunday morning but that they were giving the government two weeks to meet their demands or a further, extended protest would be called.