The quiet city of Chiang Mai got loud Thursday night. Pro-democracy Chiang Mai University students organised and gathered at CMU’s entrance on Huay Kaew Road. Over 2,000 students and onlookers attended the event.
The large gathering at CMU was a direct response to the arrest of activist and lawyer Anon Nampa in Bangkok’s massive march last Wednesday night. Organisers said the rally was dedicated to all the members of Free People who were arrested, however, a strong emphasis was placed on Anon Nampa at the event. Nampa and around 20 other Free People protesters and organisers were arrested and a ‘state-of-emergency’ was announced for Bangkok. Nampa was then flown to Chiang Mai on sedition charges in relation to giving a speech in Chiang Mai that was critical of the Thai monarchy on August 9th.
The rally for Nampa was massive compared to other recent protests in the old city. While much smaller than the protests happening currently in Bangkok, Wednesday night’s demonstration was notably larger than usual. The crowd surrounded the large CMU entrance and spilled out into the streets of Huay Kaew. Students packed in around the sign tightly and lined the streets to hear pro-democracy speeches. Around 40 police officers kept watch and waved traffic through the thick crowd.
In the centre of the crowd was a small pickup truck fitted with loud speakers. Student activist members from local groups such as Wilar Party, Community of MorChor and Lanyim Theatre took turns on the mic. The crowd was energetic and passionate. Students attached protest signs to the fencing just outside the entrance. As more students arrived, Huay Kaew Road became almost completely clogged.
One 22 year old student said about Anon, “They should not arrest a man for speaking his mind. They cannot. The government uses the speech law against us. But, myself, I am not afraid to go to jail. There are so many of us now.”
But, not all the attendees were in support. The event also drew people who didn’t agree with the protesters. One 20 year old student said about the gathering, “I’m just looking. I don’t support these people at all but I just want to see for myself.”
When asked about the rising protests in Thailand, one 19 year old said, “We will never use violence. Just our words. The people don’t have weapons. We searched each other for weapons before the event to keep everyone safe.”
The event ran until 10pm without any arrests. Anon Nampa is currently in a prison in Mae Taeng about 40 kilometres from Chiang Mai’s center where people have begun gathering outside in support. Protesters have also begun congregating again today at Chiang Mai University and yet another rally will be held at Tha Pae Gate tonight at 5pm.
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