Rise of Skywalk-er: Large crowd rallies in Bangkok for embattled pro-democracy party

Thousands rallied Saturday afternoon above Pathumwan intersection in downtown Bangkok on the skywalk between BTS Siam and National Stadium. Photo: Jubkusiii / Twitter
Thousands rallied Saturday afternoon above Pathumwan intersection in downtown Bangkok on the skywalk between BTS Siam and National Stadium. Photo: Jubkusiii / Twitter

Thousands rallied Saturday afternoon in the commercial heart of Bangkok in support of the progressive Future Forward Party and its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

Where calls for public demonstrations since the 2014 coup drew sparse crowds, today’s demonstration appeared to be the largest in years. Crowds spilled out from the Pathumwan intersection skywalk and into surrounding streets in response to Thanathorn’s call the day before to “make some noise” about the legal maneuvering to disband his young party despite its strong showing in the March election.

“The New Year gift that will make Thai people happiest now is Mr. Prayuth resigning from the PM position,” Thanathorn told the crowd at the rally, referring to Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in 2014 and now serves as prime minister.

Opposition leader calls for public rally at Bangkok skywalk

In the same spirit that lifted a salute from The Hunger Games to signify opposition to dictatorship, some in the crowd held signs or tweeted with the slogan “Rise of the Skywalk(er)” in reference to the imminent release of Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker.

“Dictators, get out!” the crowd shouted at the rally, which lasted roughly one hour.

At one point, the police moved in an attempt to disperse the protest and headed in Thanathorn’s direction, only to be blocked and pushed back by the crowd.

Nine months after his party placed third in the first general election since the 2014 coup, Thanathorn and his party now face an existential threat.

On Wednesday, the Election Commission ruled that the 40-year-old billionaire broke the rules by loaning money to his party and said it would forward a petition for its dissolution to the Constitutional Court.

That court has, since its inception, undone a series of past opposition parties disfavored by the military establishment.

Under the junta, public gatherings deemed political were banned for over five years. Occasional protests and calls for the restoration of democracy struggled to attract large numbers.

Just this week, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand canceled under pressure a pro-democracy group’s press conference announcing a nationwide run next month against dictatorship.

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