BANGKOK — Pro-democracy protests led by university students are planned throughout the weekend, and they continue to adopt pop culture into their cause.
Japanese cartoon character “Hamtaro,” the British-born wizard “Harry Potter” (whose canonical birthday happens to be today), and several other icons are set to make appearance at the rallies, which demand for the government’s resignation and a new election.
On Friday, Sirapob Phumphengphut, the leader of a Srinakharinwirot University student activist group, held a protest on the skywalk in front of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre.
At the protest, he and around 10 other protesters held up blank sheets of paper – inspired by the Hong Kong protests where people were arrested for holding up papers with nothing printed on them.
“I wanted to see what would happen if we did the same thing here,” the 19-year-old political science student said. “But also, I couldn’t think of what to write. …We want to show with the white papers that we don’t have anyone backing us and all we want is democracy.”
Sirapob said at least 30 policemen and 10 plainclothes police officers observed the rally. Although they did not interfere, he said the plainclothes police took many photos of him and the other demonstrators.
While holding the blank paper for 10 minutes, the group also chanted, “A perfect life” (ชีวิตดีๆที่ลงตัว), or Bangkok’s slogan, as well as “The paper is really white.”
The second-year student said it was to satirize the government’s Bangkok-centricity.
“The protest was at Siam, or the city center. From there, you can’t see the problems outside of Bangkok: the unemployment and economic problems that the government is unable to solve.”
A Hamtaro and Naruto-themed protest is also scheduled at 4pm underneath the Chao Phraya Sky Park. Recent protests have used the Hamtaro theme song, lyrics altered to criticize the government: “The yummiest food is citizens’ taxes!”
A group calling itself the Popular Student Network for Democracy group will stage a 5pm protest at the Central Post Office titled, “10 years we wasted, 10 years we want” – so that they can write a letter to society 10 years in the future. “Think about what you want to see in 10 years’ time, and let’s predict what will happen,” the group wrote.
A protest themed after swatting mosquitoes is scheduled at 5:30pm at Naresuan University in Phitsanulok.
Rallies are scheduled at the provincial capitals of Ratchaburi (#RatchaburiWantstoHitDictators), Ubon Ratchathani (#UbolWon’tStandForDictators), Prachinburi (#SiMahaPhotDistrictWon’tLiveWithDictators), and Surat Thani (#SuratWantsToSmackDictators).
A gathering is expected in Bangkok on that day, but activists said they will announce a venue and time later.
Another rally is scheduled 5pm Sunday at the Rayong Clock Tower, with activists Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, Anond Nampha, and Panupong Jadnok leading the protest.
The rally is named #RayongWillNotStandForEvilPeople.
Panupong was one of the two activists charged with violating the Emergency Decree after they raised banners July 15 condemning the government for allowing an infected Egyptian airman to skip quarantine and wander about in public.
Chiang Mai’s 4pm rally at Tha Pae will involve protesters visiting and eating at McDonald’s – a reference to anti-coup protests in 2014 that often assembled at the fast food restaurants.
Starting 6pm Monday, the Mahanakorn for Democracy Group and students from Kasetsart University will stage a Harry Potter-themed protest at the Democracy Monument.
“Cast spells to protect democracy, and chase out You-Know-Who,” the group wrote on their page.
“Thailand has been clouded with the power of the Death Eaters and Dementors,” the group wrote. “For a long time there has been murders, enforced disappearances, torture, and harrassment of those who fight against this evil power. …Wizards, witches, and muggles who love democracy will combine their powers to protect our rights.”
Attendants to the rally are encouraged to bring wands, which can be chopsticks because “the democratic wizards will cast spells to transform normal chopsticks into wands, just like how someone summoned watches for his friends and changed heroin into flour.”
A protest will also be held at 5pm at the city pillar in Samut Sakhon city.