Pattaya’s hungry and unemployed still line up daily for food handouts. More businesses are closing by the week. The last thing many in the tourist city want to see is a return of political demonstrations.
So as a small, but vocal, group of pro-democracy activists – some coming to the Chonburi city from as far as Chachoengsao – shouted anti-government slogans over the weekend, a larger group of struggling locals refused to join in, fretting about what political unrest might already do to their dim economic prospects.
Bar owner Kotchaporn Kongsawad said she doesn’t want to see political problems piled on top of her current woes. She went from earning about 10,000 baht a day in revenue to a few hundred. She has sold all the gold in her savings to survive and keep her employees working.
Kotchaporn said she would like to see Thailand recover first before people start stirring up even more trouble.
Pattaya has never been a hotbed of political unrest. Even during the worst of the Red Shirt campaigns against the government a decade ago, the city saw only sporadic protests and no violence.
So it wasn’t a surprise to see that Saturday and Sunday’s efforts – already hampered by rain – drew fewer than 100 people. Staged on the sand in front of Royal Garden Plaza, protestors shouted anti-government slogans and sat down as police instructed them to disperse as the rally didn’t have the proper permit.
Small and peaceful, the protest was allowed to run its course without intervention.
Police and Pattaya-area administrators had spent their weekend trying stamp out even that bit of shouting.
Organizers had tried to rally Saturday afternoon at Bali Hai Pier before police chief Pol. Col. Khemmarin Pissamai announced via loudspeaker that the assembly was illegal as organizers had not applied for a permit.
His demand for details of the group’s intentions, Covid-19 precautions and other minutia provided a convenient cover for the Royal Thai Police’s desire to stifle political protest.
Organizers simply picked up their protest and moved it to the beach in front of the Pattaya Police Station. As organizers sat while their application was debated and, as expected, declined, as a couple hundred people rallied on the beach.
Protestors shouted for the government to resign, the constitution to be amended and people given “true” democracy. Having been turned away legally by police, organizers called off the event by 8 p.m.
This story combines three reports from the Pattaya Mail, a Bangkok Herald partner.