100+ Youth Ditch School For Climate Strike

Youth strikers holding placards in front of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on Sept. 20.
Youth strikers holding placards in front of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on Sept. 20.

BANGKOK — More than a hundred youth marched to the environment ministry to demand the government declare a climate emergency, alongside thousands around the world Friday morning.

Around 150 people, mostly young foreigners, participated in a protest under the umbrella of Global Climate Strike Bangkok in front of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. They read out an open letter to officials before dropping to the ground, imitating death to represent the urgent need for concrete action on climate change.

“This is what will happen if we don’t act on climate change now,” one of the leaders said in English through a megaphone.

“You will die of old age, I will die of climate change,” the protesters chanted, also in English.

The protesters demanded the government declare a climate emergency, which they believe is a necessary step towards the dual targets of completely phasing out coal by 2025 and completely transitioning to renewable energy by 2040. They handed their demands to deputy permanent secretary Adisorn Noochdumrong, who promised to forward them to the minister.

“Coal is producing carbon [dioxide] and polluting the air that we breathe,” Marlena Wilson, 17, one of the strike organizers said. “We are hoping to phase out non-renewable energy because mother nature can’t seem to create fast enough.”

Wilson, a Thai-British student at an international school in Bangkok, was among the students who decided to ditch class for the climate demonstrations on Friday. The protesters marched for about two kilometers along Phahonyothin Road from their rendezvous point in Phahonyothin Soi 11, holding placards and shouting chants, mostly in English.

“There is no planet B,” read one placard. “Sorry Marx, workers have no world left to win,” read another placard, referring to the revolutionary Karl Marx.

“What do we want, climate justice!” the group yelled in front of a 7-Eleven store to the daze of locals who did not understand English.

Attending the protest was prominent youth climate activist Ralyn “Lilly” Satidtanasarn, 11, as well as her friends and their parents.

Only a few Thais joined the march, including Santidharm Pattanasiri, 20, a medical student at Srinakharinwirot University.

“I’m nervous as it’s my first time here, but I feel empowered to see those who share the same thoughts,” Santidharm said. “Though I wonder why a climate strike in Thailand sees more foreigners than Thais. I hope this march will encourage more Thais to stand up for the Earth.”

Ralyn “Lilly” Satidtanasarn standing with Thai high school students.
Ralyn “Lilly” Satidtanasarn standing with Thai high school students.
Santidharm Pattanasiri.
Santidharm Pattanasiri.

The ministry was supportive of the youth’s actions and reassured them that there are plans in place for climate change.

“We are glad to see youths expressing their concerns on the environment and the government’s environmental policy,” Adisorn said. “We have already declared the pollution problem as a national agenda, but we will have to look into the law to see whether it can be declared an emergency situation.”

When asked about the recent plan to construct a coal-fired power plant in southern Thailand and the Prayuth-Trump coal deal, he said the government is trying to phase out the use of coal.

“We are switching to natural gas for electricity generation, but it is still necessary in some plants where older generators are still in use. It’s a matter of technology. We are trying to work on the upgrades,” Adisorn said.

The climate strikes around the world were inspired by Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg, who called for a global movement ahead of the UN Climate Change Summit in New York on Sept. 21. The Friday march is Global Climate Strike Bangkok’s fourth strike and they will organize the next one in Chiang Mai next week.

“The strike is to bring urgency to climate change inaction, while holding polluters accountable for the violation of human rights and youths’ right to a future,” the group’s head Nanticha Ocharoenchai, 21, said.

Protesters laying on the ground as a symbol for impacts of climate change.
Protesters laying on the ground as a symbol for impacts of climate change.
Group's leader Nanticha Ocharoenchai handling a letter to deputy permanent secretary Adisorn Noochdumrong.
Group’s leader Nanticha Ocharoenchai handling a letter to deputy permanent secretary Adisorn Noochdumrong.

Marlena Wilson speaking in front of a 7-Eleven store on Phahonyothin Soi 7.
Marlena Wilson speaking in front of a 7-Eleven store on Phahonyothin Soi 7.