Black magic and calls for change at large protest at Khon Kaen’s Democracy Monument

Photos from Khon Kaen by Adithep Chanthep

KHON KAEN / BANGKOK – The Democracy Monument in Khon Kaen city, a smaller-sized replica of the one in Bangkok, has only occasionally served as a venue of protest in recent years. But last night the symbolic landmark drew a cheering crowd of up 1,500 people in support of the youth-led movement for democracy and social change.

Activists took turns giving speeches on stage calling on the government to dissolve parliament, paving the way for elections and the drafting of a new constitution. Isaan women’s rights and LGBTQ activists took the stage campaigning for gender equality and the right to safe abortions.

The activists also held a mock ritual using the soft drink Red Bull as holy water to drive out Prime Minister General Prayuth who had led the 2014 military coup ousting an elected government and was subsequently made prime minister after elections in March 2019

Organized by a university student group formed after the controversial dissolution of the Future Forward Party in February, the protest was one of the largest in Isaan in recent weeks. The group “Khon Kaen’s Had Enough” announced it would make the monument its regular venue for more protests to keep up the pressure on the government.

Meanwhile, prominent Isaan activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, or “Pai Dao Din,” and Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, a chief organizer of the protests in Bangkok, spoke at a panel discussion in the capital. Tattep told a crowd of journalists that his group was planning to expand its reach and build alliances with networks in Isaan and other regions.

Many of the protesters were high school students who wore white ribbons and raised the three-finger salute as a symbol of resistance.
Protesters held up signs and tablets showing their support for the movement’s three main demands: 1. Dissolving of parliament; 2. End to the harassment of dissidents; 3) Drafting of a new, democratic constitution.
Dressed in a white Brahman robe, Attapon Buapat, an organizer of the event, held a mock ritual to curse and drive out Prime Minister Prayuth.
The ritual included a photo of Prayuth and bottles of the soft drink Red Bull used instead of holy water. The venue of the Democracy Monument is located next to the city shrine, the spiritual center of Khon Kaen.
A group of women’s and LGBTQ rights activists campaigned for the abolishment of Section 301 of the Criminal Code that criminalizes abortions. In February, a court had ruled that the law is unconstitutional because it breaches the principles of equality and liberty. But there have been no efforts from the government to amend the law so far.
Prominent Bangkok student activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak spoke on stage repeating the movement’s unprecedented public call for an open discussion of the monarchy and its relationship to Thailand’s democracy.
Protesters, most of them wearing masks, turned on their mobile phone’s flashlights as musicians performed on stage and speakers delivered speeches for political and social change.
An event at the Foreign Correspondent Club Thailand in Bangkok happening at the same time focused on the student-led movement. Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree (left), Secretary-General of the Free Youth Movement, one of the main groups behind the protests in the capital, said that his group was making efforts to expand beyond Bangkok and engage networks in provincial cities and rural areas. “All problems –no matter if they are political, economic, social, cultural or environmental issues– all have their roots in the political structure,” he said. “How can we solve these problems if we don’t decentralize state power?”