BANGKOK — A group of Thai student activists gathered in front of the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok to show their solidarity with the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
A dozen students from Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD) held signs and posted placards on the entrance of the Chinese Embassy on Ratchadapisek Road this morning in support of the tens of thousands of demonstrators who have camped out in the streets of Hong Kong's financial district for four days.
One sign held by the Thai students read, “Hong Kong Is Not Prison” in reference to a Thai pun, as "Hong Kong" sounds similar to the words for "holding cells" (hong krong) in Thai.
The students also took a swipe at Thailand's military junta, who has banned all public demonstrations and political gatherings. One sign depicted Chinese president Xi Jinping next to the caption "China will do as promised. We are asking for a little more time, and the beautiful Hong Kong will return," mocking a line from the patriotic ballad allegedly penned by Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The group peacefully dispersed after 15 minutes. No police officers were visible throughout the rally, while several security guards from the Chinese embassy observed the protest from a distance.
Speaking to Khaosod English after the rally, Piyarath Chongthep, a core activist in the Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD), said he and his friends wanted to lend moral support to the protesters in Hong Kong, many of whom are student activists.
"Over there, the activists are backed by many students who share the same ideals, whereas in Thailand students have very, very different ideas about politics or the coup," Piyarath said.
"It's very hard for Thai students to unite or organise like what happened in October 14," he added, referring to the October 1973 student uprising against the then-military junta. "Back then many students shared the same view.”
Piyarath also said his group will be in touch with leaders of Hong Kong's Occupy Central movement to share experiences and tips about staging protests.
Prior to the rally in front of the Chinese Embassy, Piyarath's group met with police in Pathumwan district to acknowledge their punishment for commemorating the 19 September 2006 coup with pro-democracy banners.
The students were fined 2,000 baht for “violating the public cleanliness act” for the banner they hung in front of Chulalongkorn University, Piyarath said. He added that anonymous donors have sent the group more than 8,000 baht to cover the fines and other legal costs in the future.
The student activists have not been charged with violating the junta’s ban on public demonstrations, which was imposed shortly after the National Council For Peace and Order staged a coup on 22 May.
The Hong Kong protesters' demands for an open and fair election by 2017 have resonated with many pro-democracy activists in Thailand.
Anti-coup critics have been sharing photos of the Hong Kong protests on social media, adding mocking references to the situation in Thailand, where demonstrators took to the streets earlier this year to demand the suspension of democracy in Thailand. The anti-election protests paved the way for the coup on 22 May.
"Hong Kong = struggle to become democracy. Thailand = struggle to become dictatorship," one Thai activist posted on social media.
The Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (OFHD), an anti-coup group formed in exile, also voiced support and admiration for the Hong Kong protests in a statement released today.
“OFHD would like to call for every democratic government and Human Rights organization to stand in solidarity with the Hong Kong people,” the statement reads. “This demonstration is not only a demonstration for the Hong Kong people but also a demonstration for all humankind.”