Top: Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit speaks to hundreds of his supporters at a much anticipated rally on BTS skywalk above Pathumwan Intersection on Dec. 14, 2019.
BANGKOK — Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangruangruangkit told several thousands of his supporters at a rally Saturday evening that the people would no longer put up with political injustice.
“We come together today in a show of force, to show that we will not retreat and will not put up with things any longer,” Thanathorn said. “This is not a day to protect the Future Forward, but a day to to protect the future of all Thais.”
Organizers and police have yet to estimate the number of people who participated in a protest called upon by Thanathorn on BTS skywalk above Pathumwan Intersection today, but reporters at the scene believed there were at least 3,000 demonstrators.
“Today is just a taste of it. An hour is enough … once we’re done, we will go home,” Thanathorn said to the angry and jubilant crowd who crammed the elevated walkway close to MBK shopping mall.
He urged his supporters to show up next month at the “Run Against Dictatorship” running event against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, which is scheduled to take place on Jan. 12. He also hinted that “a real, bigger rally” will take place in the future.
Also present at the rally were other key Future Forward leaders including party’s sec-gen Piyabutr Saengkanolkkul, spokeswoman Pannika Wanich, and rising-star MP Pita Limjaroenrat – who addressed the crowd in English.
The protesters were holding placards and shouting chants “long live democracy, dictatorship get out.” Many also flashed the anti-junta “three-finger salute.”
Thanathorn’s abrupt plea for a “flash mob” apparently appealed to the youths; the call of mobilization was made on his social media platforms, saying “it’s time for the new generation to step into reality.” Hashtags related to the protest had been trending on Twitter since yesterday.
Among the crowd was a 22-year-old student, who said he came out today to protest against “distorted democratic processes.”
“I felt something fishy since the election,” Phurin Wonglomnil said. “I came out today in support of the person who spoke out against those who have taken away our rights and freedom.”
Asked if he feared any legal retaliation from the government, Phurin said no.
“This is the beginning of the moment when people can express their freedom of expression,” he said. “It’s our right under the Constitution.”
Members of other generations also joined the rally, including the 37-year-old woman who asked not to be named due to fear of repercussions from her employers. She said she came all the way from Phuket just to join today’s “flash mob”.
“Future Forward is about to be dissolved and it’s clear why,” Nam, who wore Future Forward’s bandana said. “I want to be part of a show of force, to let them know that there are people watching and not taken in by their propaganda.”
Prior to today’s rally, several coalition politicians, including PM Prayuth himself, urged Thanathorn not to resort to street protests. Phalang Pracharath Party’s spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said Friday the protest could escalate to another political crisis and suggested the mobilization is “selfish.”
Although Thanathorn did not explicitly mention his loan case as a reason for the rally, political observers speculated that his call was made in response to the Election Commission’s petition to the Constitutional Court to dissolve the party for violating election laws by accepting 191-million baht loan from Thanathorn.
If found guilty, Thanathorn and 14 other party executives could be banned from politics for at least five years.
Around 150 police officers were deployed to watch over the protest. The protest went generally peacefully – with a minor clash that broke out between the police and protesters at around 5.40pm – and they dispersed at around 6pm.
Additional reporting Pravit Rojanaphruk