BANGKOK — A group of Thais and foreigners in Bangkok staged a virtual protest on Sunday in solidarity with the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the ongoing anti-racism protests in the United States.
The killing of black American George Floyd almost two weeks ago propelled two Thais and one American to assemble at a Bangkok condominium, where they organized a “virtual rally” with nearly 400 others through the Zoom chat online application.
Natalie “Bin” Narkprasert, 28, a business woman, is one of the three organizers. She said her decision to organize the protest was a spontaneous idea on Wednesday. Natalie also said she hopes to stage a physical flash mob when the Emergency Decree is lifted.
“I saw at least five people crying,” Natalie said after the online protest was over.
The rally was initially planned as a flash mob inside Lumpini Park, but organizers feared police will block the protest by citing the emergency law, which bans public gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s too risky. And there’s also COVID-19 so this is probably the best option,” Prameet Sirisachdecha, a Thai-Indian who works in the fashion industry, said.
During the online gathering, the activists call for an end to racial discrimination and police brutality. The organizers said they will later send the video of the protest to the US Embassy in Bangkok.
Some black Americans in Bangkok were reportedly approached to be co-organizers of Sunday’s protest, but they were reluctant to take up the role because they feared the authorities might refuse to renew their visas.
“In Thailand we don’t know, freedom of speech,” Natalie said, quoting one of them. Some joined yesterday’s virtual protests from Washington D.C. in the US and one from the Netherlands.
Her co-organizer Prameet said he’s aware that the protests won’t miraculously make racism go away.
“If you expect overnight change, it never happens,” he said. “People this generation have a shorter attention span.”
In the Zoom meeting, protesters raised their right arms and fists together and held a moment of silence lasting eight minute and 46 seconds, the duration where Floyd was pressed on his neck by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Floyd cried, “I can’t breathe” a few times before he eventually became unconscious and was pronounced dead at a hospital an hour later.
“This movement is far from over,” Prameet told fellow protesters towards the end of the virtual demonstration.
A video where some of the virtual protesters in Bangkok took turns to say a few words, including by black Americans, was shown to fellow protesters.
“Police brutality is a product of systemic racism,” said a Thai protester on Zoom.
Another co-organizer, Bangkok-based American businessman Ruben Derksen, 34, said he hopes the movement will last and bring some changes.
“There’s absolutely a need to be a change in the system and train the police force to be less racially discriminatory and violent,” Derkson said. “It’s the movement like this that keeps pressure on the government to instigate change.”