United through repression, a group of Thai students defied the ruling junta's ban on public rallies and gathered in front of Chinese Embassy in Bangkok to show their solidarity for the pro-democracy student protesters in Hong Kong.
The student protesters, who are reported to be anti-coup activists from the Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD), staged the rally in support of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, which protests the decision of the Chinese government to vet candidates standing in Hong Kong’s leadership election in 2017.
Images of the protesters, which gathered outside the consulate for less than an hour, are being shared widely across social media, such as the image posted on Facebook.
The actions of these students are significant, occurring at a time when the ruling military junta have arrested and detained hundreds of pro-democracy activists, politicians and academics in their relentless attempt to silence any opposition voices. Since May’s coup, the military have cultivated an Orwellian culture of censorship and intimidation in which public demonstrations and political gatherings have been banned, preventing pro-democracy groups from taking to the streets.
There is a natural link between the Hong Kong protesters and their Thai allies. According to the Khasood English-language website, one of the students took a dig at the ruling junta, satirizing a ballad meant to have been written by the controversial junta leader and now Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha: “China will do as promised. We are asking for a little more time, and the beautiful Hong Kong will return”.
Yet unlike their contemporaries occupying Hong Kong’s central business district, the Thai students have had some experience living under democratic rule, having grown up under the popular democratic rule of Thaksin Shinawatra, the first ever democratically elected leader in Thailand to complete a full term in office. (Although Thaksin was later ousted by a coup in 2006 and he was convicted on plunder charges. He is living in exile to avoid detention). With the systematic attack on democracy and the rule of law brought about by the most recent coup, the Thai people have experienced first-hand what it means to regress from democracy to autocracy.
The Hong Kong protests will inevitably raise an important question about what is next for the people of Thailand. Could the protests staged by these courageous students galvanize a more vocal movement for democratic leadership of the country?