Demonstration in Bangkok: forgive the sins or embrace justice

Ripples of energy surging through the crowd. Thursday 31st October afternoon, and my legs feel taunt after walking from Victory Monument to the Samsen train station. Bangkok is seeing more and more demonstrations, politically motivated, extra heightened with zeal and propaganda. This city seems to be torn by gaps of social superiority, extreme political rivalries, and at times oblivious to the wretched poor. 

‎Trains, slowing down at the station, appear almost unreal - old lumbering faded machines from the old days, with amused, bright and puzzled faces peeking at the gathering nearby.

By 6 PM, nearly 5,000 demonstrators have piled the narrow roads and small space to show their support to their politicians, their leaders who used the stage to express their objections to the proposed amnesty bill. A bill that would basically reset the alleged crimes and violations of the past. A reset that the present administration feels needed to move forward. 

In 2010, the then prime minister, Abhisit, and his deputy, ‎Suthep, called the military to cleanse the streets of Red Shirt demonstrators. Nearly 100 people lost their lives and thousands were wounded, as a result of the crackdown. Aye, let's not forget Black Shirts and burning buildings.

Now, the present prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, ‎is faced with a dilemma: process of justice or forgive the sins of the past. Her attempt at national reconciliation is met by stiff resistance, particularly from Abhisit and the opposition party.

I made my way through the howling crowd. Women wearing hijab stand side by side, with their political allies, waving their hands in the air while nodding towards the stage. If only urban Thai Muslims here show such energy to stop or condemn the violence in the south, where conflict has robbed the lives of civilians - but then again, people in Bangkok think Thailand evolves around their fair city, while other provinces are of lesser rank. 

Thainess? No, I just call it extreme prejudice in a pretentious setting.

‎Applause, more speeches, senseless to me, as if I understood a word of what Thais are saying to the crowd. The language is foreign to me, although I understand the body language and their gaze of admiration. These demonstrators are in support of the Democrat Party, and would prefer seeing the removal of Yingluck from her post.

Another burst of energy, laughter in the hot air, and some people pushing me from behind. A celebration of some sort, where street vendors sell protest merchandise, food and drinks. More than a dozen tables serve local beer to thirsty men, while others appear relaxed in their black t-shirts.

It's suffocating, yet I am drawn to demonstrations. Just a few days ago I was in Phnom Penh, witnessing Cambodians exercising their right to peaceful assembly at Freedom Park. Obviously different to the protest in Samsen, the Cambodians were poor, many from rural areas.

Spot lights, bright and glaringly annoying. I move away, to a corner near the parked motorcycles. Thais are back in the mood, to rebel against a system that they themselves are unsure of, much less believe in. I'm in no mood, in this sweat drenched ‎brown t-shirt, to stay any longer. Thoughts of abandoned poverty, people living in slums, the marginalized and those living in constant terror of assassins in the ThaiSouth. I can't help but think that Bangkok is only concerned about urban rich folks.

I lose myself into the night, surrounded by shadows and dwelling in thoughts of the concept of selfless change, or that spark of passion, perhaps, that someone in the crowd may have for those truly oppressed. 


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