DefMin Dismisses HK Copycat Protest in Bangkok

Tens of thousands of protesters carry posters and banners march through the streets as they continue to protest an extradition bill, Sunday, June 16, 2019, in Hong Kong. Image: Associated Press

BANGKOK — A large-scale anti-government protest like that rocking Hong Kong is unlikely to break out in Bangkok any time soon, a senior official said Tuesday.

Playing down half-joking threats from anti-junta activists to stage a similar rally, defense minister spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said the two territories’ political contexts are vastly different. He also warned that any attempt to organize public protests may end up damaging Thailand’s image.

“The conditions are different,” Maj. Gen. Kongcheep said. “If we [look] at the information in a full and impartial way without distortion, we would share the same understanding of both societies”.

He added, “We’re worried some people may stage a movement just for the sake of causing negative images … People must not prize emotions over reason and laws. I want all sides to think things through.”

Instead of agitating for unrest, Maj. Gen. Kongcheep recommended Thais display unity to welcome the leaders of ASEAN countries who will meet in Thailand over the upcoming weekend.

Inspired by images of human waves bringing the Hong Kong metropolis to a standstill, some opponents of the military regime have been toying with the idea of taking to the streets to challenge the junta’s rule.

Netizens opposed to the government are now routinely joking they should “learn” from Hong Kong. A member of a famed anti-junta rap group even posted a photo of himself joining the rally in downtown Hong Kong.

“Should we adopt a ‘Future Forward’ in Hong Kong’s style?” user Nampol Kajonpimanmas wrote on Facebook in the caption for photos showing massive demonstrations in the former British colony.

“We won’t have to wait long. If people like us have enough courage, the dictatorship is now scum beneath our feet,” user Jakkapong Julgranark replied.

But not every dissident is enthused about the idea of organizing a copycat protest. For instance, activist Pakinai Chomsinsubmun said he fears a similar rally in Thailand would not draw the same solidarity and impact.

“I am not arguing over whether taking to the streets is something we must do. It should be done, and it can be done,” Pakinai wrote. “But I’d like to repeat my words: if we want to take to the streets for a political demonstration (not a brief flash mob), we have to really evaluate our conditions and the situation before we do it. We have a lot of differences with Hong Kong.”