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Weekend Reads Thailand: demonstrators draw inspiration from Hong Kong's fluid tactics

18:30  20 october  2020
18:30  20 october  2020 Source:   lepoint.fr

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Umbrellas to protect themselves, secure messaging and coded signs to sound the alarm: pro-democracy protesters in Thailand are inspired by the techniques of Hong Kong activists to challenge power.

The images of helmeted protesters, wearing goggles and gas masks to protect themselves from the police this weekend in Bangkok were strongly reminiscent of the monster rallies in Hong Kong last year.

Thai youth have also adopted Hong Kong's lightning, fluid and fast rally tactics, according to the motto "Be like water" attributed to martial arts champion Bruce Lee.

"We are like a swift current that is ready to change direction every minute," says Panumas "James" Singprom, co-founder of Free Youth, one of the main groups in the Thai protest movement.

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"The state forced us to adapt very quickly".

Thai protesters have defied authorities' bans and warnings and have continued to rally in recent weeks by tens of thousands to demand reforms from the government and the monarchy.

To counter surveillance and prevent arrests, they use secure couriers like Telegram to coordinate rallies and reveal meeting points at the last moment.

After the arrest of the most prominent figures of the movement, the Thais, as in Hong Kong, continued the mobilization without apparent leaders and using hashtags to propagate their messages on social networks.

The majority of activists who go to the demonstrations are independent, notes "James".

"The Milk Tea Alliance"

Empathy between activists from Hong Kong and Thailand was evident in Bangkok on Sunday when activists sang "Make Hong Kong Independent" by pointing lamps at the night sky .

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If we could see crowds raising their hands with fingers spread in Hong Kong, to symbolize the five demands of the demonstrators, it is however the three-fingered salutes inspired by the films "Hunger Games" which are omnipresent in the demonstrations of Thailand.

Young Hong Kong and Taiwanese activists gave advice to their Thai counterparts forming what has been described as a "milk tea alliance" between these three sweet drink-loving Asian countries.

And when the Thai police started to toughen their response, by spraying the protesters with water cannons, the Hong Kong people shared their techniques for protecting themselves.

A twitto named Crystaljel advocated umbrellas for protection and salt water for washing eyes in case of gas fire. "Make good use of your talent and courage," he added.

The "Roman turtle" tactic with umbrellas as shields, widely used in Hong Kong, was seen on Friday night in Bangkok's commercial district.

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Protesters gathered their umbrellas at the front of the procession to act as a barrier against riot police.

On Sunday, they formed human chains to deliver messages and materials - helmets, goggles and water - to those most at risk.

This rapid communication system also made it possible to free the passage for ambulances heading for hospitals.

Coded messages borrowed from the Hong Kong people were also used by Thais who thus folded their arms to signal a danger

Numerous coups d'état

As in Hong Kong, volunteers went up to the front line as soon as an offensive by the forces order was looming.

"I want to do more than participate in the demonstration," said a 23-year-old student, who refused to give his name.

"Now is the time to mobilize and protect your friends".

Despite many similarities, Hong Kong has not seen a bloody crackdown like Thailand has seen in previous pro-democracy movements.

And an Internet user recalls on the Hong Kong forum LIHKG that Hong Kong does not have much to teach Thais about the demonstrations.

"They have had more coups d'etat than you have had meals," he says.

"When they were using grenades in 2014, you were still singing protest songs".

burs-dhc / rs / qan / lgo / at

20/10/2020 12:20:57 - Bangkok ( AFP ) - © 2020 AFP

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