Regular protests in Chiang Mai are back in full swing. Over the past five days there have been at least two major politically driven protests at Chiang Mai’s famous Tha Phae Gate landmark. The past few months have seen high-school and college aged students, artists and activists stand up for a range of issues. Thai politics, the Ukraine and Russia conflict as well as showing support for Myanmar are a few current issues the tenacious protestors have demonstrated for. The protest on Wednesday night took things up a notch.
Around 7:30PM on August 24, 2022 a group of about 20 young Thai activists set ablaze large public fires at famous Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Multiple burning demonstrations began. Protest performers lit fires in the shape of words and life-sized human effigies in response to Thailand’s top court suspending prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha from official duty while it considers a legal challenge to limits on his term. While protestors celebrated his departure they expressed their frustration with the new caretaker leader during Prayuth’s suspension, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also a former army chief. “It’s like Thailand is going from COVID to Monkeypox with the prime minister situation,” said a young protestor.
The young protestor, who asked to remain anonymous, said about the fires, “The burning is performance art. Many people interpret it in many ways. It could symbolize the burning of the ruling class/tyrants. Or, some people here believe the burning is a ritual called ‘chillies and salt burning’. This is a ritual used to curse someone in fok religion. Perhaps the burning tonight could be a ritualistic funeral for Prayuth and the government. Also, we have a red lanna flag which mostly is associated with deaths and funerals in Thailand.”
The crowd grew with excitement as the organizers lit more items on fire. While many attendees and passerbys of the performances had multiple interpretations of the fires, the scene was truly incredible to witness. The tall flames licked at the sky and as people noticed the burning inferno the crow gathered. Over 100 people watched as the fires smoldered. The performers displayed dancing, singing, screaming and acting as the fires sizzled to smaller flames..
The fires calmed around 8:30PM as protestors swept up the remains. Many of the young organizers danced to pro-democracy rap songs as they cleaned up for the night. Organizers say they have plans for many more protests like the fire protest in the near future.