Wash off the dictatorship: Protesters splash for a cause

PHOTO: Protesters urge Thailand to "wash off dictatorship." (via Nation)

For those who love the splashing water of Songkran but wish it was far more serious and political, a protest held yesterday fits the bill. More than 20 protesters from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, a pro-democracy group, gathered outside the Parliament complex to symbolically “wash off the dictatorship” with water.

The rally took place the day after an announcement in the Royal Gazette confirmed the dissolution of the House of Representatives to make way for a General Election on May 14.

The protesters took to the streets to call for a clean slate and a fresh start in the upcoming elections visually and tangibly, urging voters – and any would-be coup-ponderer in the government – to use the elections to move Thailand away from military dictatorship and towards democracy.

To visualise this cleansing, the demonstrators set out equipped with buckets of water, detergent, brooms, and mops. They cleaned the Parliament’s signpost and entrance, with some protesters even pouring water on themselves to signify the “washing away” of the dictatorship.

The protesters managed to evoke captivating imagery by washing photographs of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan. Both ministers are now working in caretaker roles.

Police officers from Bangpho Police Station were present to maintain order and ensure security in the area. The rally lasted for around 40 minutes before the protesters dispersed.

The dissolution of the House of Representatives was endorsed by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun of Thailand two days ago, and the election must now be held within 45-60 days. The Election Committee confirmed yesterday that Thailand’s General Election will take place on Sunday, May 14, 2023, with early ballots cast on May 7.

Over 52 million people are required to vote, and recent polling suggests that nearly 50% of voters plan to support the opposition Phue Thai Party.

The rally outside Parliament is the latest in a series of demonstrations in Thailand over the past several years, as pro-democracy activists call for political reforms and the government’s resignation. The military junta seized power in a coup in 2014 and has since faced mounting opposition from civil society groups, students, and activists.

Many are watching raptly to see if May’s election will bring about a seismic shift in Thailand’s government and direction.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.