ABOVE: Thai dissident Junya Yimprasert stands with Italian activists holding signs in English, Thai and Italian at a Thursday protest against Thai junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha’s visit to Italy. Photo: Eugenio Marongiu
A group of Italian student activists did organize a protest against visiting Thai junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha on Thursday in Milan, according to the group, despite a claim by Thai officials this afternoon it was a hoax.
Leftist student group Cantiere posted an announcement of the protest action and their reasons for participating on Thursday at the beginning of the Asia-Europe Meeting, a summit intended to build stronger relations between European and Asian nations where Prayuth made his first trip abroad to strengthen his regime’s legitimacy.
The meeting “will be the first official visit by Prayuth Chan-ocha, head of the Thai military junta that has suspended democracy in the Southeast Asian country,” Cantiere said Thursday. “Activists and fellow Thais came to Milan to do what is impossible in their own country: challenge it aloud.”
The group said it was invited to show solidarity against the junta by Junya Yimprasert, a Thai dissident registered as a political refugee in Finland.
Announcement by Cantiere.
The scope of the protest, which appears to have included hundreds of activists, is also apparent in photographs by freelance photographer Eugenio Marongiu.
A second motive for the demonstration, Prayuth’s oversight of the 2010 crackdown on Redshirts during which an army bullet killed Milanese photojournalist Fabio Polenghi, was not mentioned by Cantiere. Indeed Polenghi only seemed mentioned in statements from Junya and comments made online by a sister of Polenghi.
Photo: Eugenio Marongiu
Earlier today public missives from the prime minister’s office sought to dismiss any perception that Prayuth’s visit was met with disharmony. The Office of the Prime Minister shared photos showing a small group of supporters greeting Prayuth at his hotel.
The battle for perception seems aimed at the domestic Thai audience. No complaints were reportedly lodged against international news organizations who reported the protest, but a junta spokesman said in Khaosod English it would block a Thai-language blog called “Thai E News” that reported on the matter.
That site now appears to be inaccessible from inside the kingdom.