Thousands participate in “car mob” protest in Thailand amid police crackdown

As anger spread against the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the government of Prayut Chan-o-cha, thousands took out a rally commemorating the anniversary of the Thammasat University protests in 2020

August 11, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
As anger spread against the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the government of Prayut Chan-o-cha, thousands took out a rally commemorating the anniversary of the Thammasat University protests in 2020

Despite the arrest of nearly a dozen organizers, Thailand’s capital witnessed a massive protest caravan as anger over the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic rises. On Tuesday, August 10, thousands were reported to have participated in a “car mob” rally. Many protesters came in cars and motorcycles, while hundreds arrived on foot with anti-government placards and signs at Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong intersection, known for its shopping centers and major business offices.

The protest also marked one year since student protesters at the Thammasat University released a charter of 10 demands to reform the monarchy and democratization the government. The student and youth activists who led the protest in Thammasat in 2020 had formed the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), which organized Tuesday’s rally. The police have been issuing arrest warrants against activists and organizers of the rally after it was announced last week.

At least nine, including youth activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, have been arrested by the police so far. All of those arrested are facing charges for being part of another demonstration held on August 2, organized to demand the release of detained protesters. According to the Thai Lawyers of Human Rights, on August 9, Monday, the Criminal Court in Bangkok revoked the bails of all nine activists.

According to Prachatai, Parit’s lawyers noted bruises and scratches on his body very likely caused by police manhandling while he and other arrested activists were taken out of the court by the police on Monday. Parit will now be back in prison less than three months after being released, along with other youth activists. They were previously released after spending 92-days in detention and staging a prolonged hunger strike.

Despite such a crackdown, protesters thronged the rally reiterating the long-standing demands for democratization and an end to the military-supported government of prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. More recent demands include raising the budget to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, procuring more effective vaccines, and release all the recently arrested activists from previous protests.

According to Prachatai, members of the United Front for Democracy and Against Dictatorship (UDD), commonly called the “Red Shirts,” and other grassroots movements participated in the rally. Protesters made stops along offices and companies owned by senior ministers, including the Sino-Thai tower, of which the family of the public health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, are among the major stakeholders.

The UFTD announced the protests to have been concluded after clashes broke out outside the King Power office. This duty-free shopping center was housing a large battalion of riot police personnel. Violence continued as the police were seen using projectiles against the protesters, while the sound of explosives and fire was also reported from the area.

Based on reports by Prachatai.