Thailand’s young people use ‘subversive creativity’ in pro-democracy protest


Sunday at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument saw another group of people calling for the government’s dissolution. This time, the hundreds of young protesters who gathered were sporting animal ears, carrying stuffed hamster toys and singing a popular Japanese anime song.

The protest is the latest subversive show of creativity from the kingdom’s emerging pro-democracy movement.

The latest demonstrators brought a different mood from a week ago, when thousands of young, black-clad Thais shouted vitriolic anti-government rap songs at the monument.

As police watched, the protesters sang a parody of the theme song for Hamtaro– an anime character that is a sparkly-eyed hamster – replacing the lyrics with the refrain “dissolve the Parliament”.

The Hamtaro theme was chosen for its viral potential in other countries, said Jessie, a 19-year-old university student.

Most notably, the jaunty chorus – “The most delicious thing is sunflower seeds” – have been changed to “The most delicious thing is the people’s taxes”.

“They should use our taxes to develop our country,” Jessie said.

“We are scared but for us, it is important to start speaking up about it,” she told AFP. “We need change right now.”

Sunday’s gathering was the latest in a string of rallies across the country, displaying a deep well of discontent among young Thais from all walks of life.

The day before, LGBT activists gathered at Democracy Monument to call for marriage equality and demand for the prime minister’s resignation.

The different group of protesters all have the same message, as boom-box wielding Thais started to jog around the monument in an apparent symbolic attempt to show how the kingdom’s politics falls into a cycle they wish to break.

“I want a future where people can fight for democracy,” said Bowie, a 27-year-old lawyer who only provided his nickname.

“We need freedom to fight because this government attacks everyone that is not on their side,” he said before running to join his fellow protesters.

The kingdom’s rambunctious political scene has long been defined by coups and deadly street protests.

The current government headed by former army general-turned-premier Prayut Chan-o-cha is regarded as part of the pro-military royalist establishment.

But a freefalling economy due to the coronavirus epidemic, and the recent disappearance of a pro-democracy activist has stoked the anger of younger Internet-savvy Thais who are well-versed in viral movements.

The Premier said last week he was “worried” for the parents of the young protesters, and defended keeping the emergency laws in place – which critics say is a way to erode freedoms. (Source: The Straits Times)