Thailand's Protests Shift Tactics, Influenced by Hong Kong

Thailand's Protests Shift Tactics, Influenced by Hong Kong

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Antigovernment protesters rallied in Bangkok on Sunday.


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Thousands of antigovernment protesters gathered at Bangkok’s Victory Monument on Sunday wearing raincoats, helmets and goggles, braced for a confrontation with authorities who two days earlier had used water cannons to disperse a rally.

Demonstrators formed clear front lines around barricades. Volunteers directed attendees to sit in tight rows, distributing protective gear to those on the outer edges.

Thailand’s protest movement—which sustained a steady pace for months—has taken on a different tone in recent days as it steps up calls for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s resignation. Earlier protests typically began with smaller marches to central meeting points where young activists gave rousing speeches on a diversity of issues. They have morphed into larger, hourslong occupations of prominent public spaces with participants prepared for police action.

Sunday marked the fourth consecutive day protesters defied a government ban on large gatherings, and the second day they circumvented mass-transit shutdowns, arriving at protest sites on foot and by motorcycle taxis. Though protesters were prepared for a possible encounter with police, authorities took no action against them and they dispersed around 8 p.m. One of the main groups mobilizing the demonstrations, Free Youth, called for sustained protests until demands are met, declaring on


that “We won’t stop!”

Thailand’s protests have echoed some of the tactics seen during Hong Kong’s movement against Beijing’s influence over the city that evolved without an identified leader and used fluid and diffuse strategies to confound authorities.

Young organizers in Thailand, for instance, didn’t disclose the sites of Sunday’s rallies until midafternoon, instead asking fellow demonstrators to head toward mass-transit stations and await further instructions. Around 3 p.m., they used social media and messaging apps


Twitter, Telegram and Line to announce the previously undisclosed locations, calling on people to gather in two of the busiest areas in Thailand’s capital city—an attempt to stay one step ahead of police.

Protesters in Bangkok on Sunday called for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.


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As crowds streamed in, volunteers gave them a crash course in what to do in the event of a clash with police: open your umbrella, don’t resist and don’t use violence. They rehearsed the use of hand signals to direct food, water and protective gear through the ranks.

“I learned some of the techniques from the Hong Kong demonstrations, like the ways they inform and guide each other,” said Sarawut Tawan, a 30-year-old volunteer at the demonstration. “And umbrellas can protect us, we learned that from Hong Kong. We don’t have any weapons—it’s rainy season and we just have umbrellas in our hands.”

Thousands of people, many of them university and high-school students, have continued to take to the streets despite the arrests of prominent activists in the past few days. The protests have grown in size though they remain much smaller than Hong Kong’s, which drew hundreds of thousands of residents. The demonstrations in Thailand have remained peaceful so far, avoiding the violence that accompanied the later stages of Hong Kong’s movement.

“What we learned from Hong Kong is how to protect ourselves,” said Petch Radbopitch, a 16-year-old activist who joined Sunday’s rally. “For example, they use sounds and signals to mobilize, umbrellas to protect themselves, and different channels to communicate.”

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Protests in Thailand

Demonstrations against the government gained momentum

Antigovernment protesters gathered at the Victory Monument in Bangkok on Sunday.
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Police spokesman Col. Kissana Pattanacharoen said in a news conference Sunday night that “public gatherings causing unrest are against the decree of public administration in emergency situations” and violators may face prosecution.

Public anger is directed in large part at Mr. Prayuth, a former army chief and coup leader who became the country’s elected prime minister after elections last year that many protesters say unjustly favored his military-backed party. A new generation of young activists is calling for the military to step away from politics, with some broadening their targets to also take aim at the country’s wealthy and politically influential monarchy.

Mr. Prayuth has said he won’t resign. The palace hasn’t commented on the protests.

Rallies were planned in at least 19 Thai provinces outside of Bangkok on Sunday. About 150 people joined a rally organized by a small group of Thai students in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. Thachaporn Supparatanapinyo, 25, one of the founders of the Taiwan Alliance for Thai Democracy, said she coordinates with student groups in Thailand, Europe and elsewhere to share information.

“This isn’t about countries and borders, just people that want to support each other,” she said. “It’s totally out of the scope that any government can control.”

Write to Feliz Solomon at and Wilawan Watcharasakwet at

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Copywriter and marketing consultant. Author of 'Stories And Recipes From The Soup Kitchen.' Freedom lover, adventurer, and treasure hunter.

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