Civil disobedience is the act of peaceful protest in which citizens refuse to obey certain laws, demands, orders, or commands by the government.
The pro-democracy protests at the Democracy Monument and elsewhere across Thailand are an act of civil disobedience. The moral authority of civil disobedience is its peaceful stance against injustice.
On 20 August, over a hundred protesters gathered at Samranrat Police Station to show support for student activists reporting to the police. The police put up barricades barring the protestors from entering the station.
A tussle between the two sides and a protestor, 31-year-old Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan, of the band The Bottom Blues, threw a blue paint bucket at police officers. He also pushed one police officer. Watch the incident here.
The incident divided public opinion, some supporting it, while others believe it was unjustified.
Those who are against it point out that the police officers were only doing their job as commanded, that police officers are poor and uniforms are not cheap, and that this should not be the action of a peaceful protest for democracy.
Those who support the paint-splashing argue that it’s an act of defiance against injustice, that the police putting up the barricades was an act of provocation, and that paint washes off easier than blood. The blood reference refers to past violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protests.
On 1 September, 21-year-old Jutatip Sirikhan, a protest leader and the President of the Student Union of Thailand, charged with Article 116 (sedition), performed a symbolic act by pouring white paint over her body in front of the courthouse. Watch the incident here.
She said these words, “Paint is washable. But injustice is not.”
On the same day, Chaiamorn posted on his Facebook page:
“Today, one of my concerts was canceled. The reason was simple, ‘Poo-yai are not comfortable.’ If any sponsors want to cancel for this reason, please tell me. I would understand, and I would not be angry. I would gladly give back a total refund.”
What went through your mind when you threw the paint?
It was an idea that I hadn’t thought through. I admit it was partly emotional.
I felt that if we didn’t increase the level of protest, nothing would happen. We would just keep protesting, singing, and speaking on the stage. It wouldn’t go anywhere, and the government would just keep ignoring us. We’ve already seen that our peaceful demands have not led to anything.
Does that mean the protests will become more radicalized?
I’m not sure. To be honest, I’m still a firm believer in peaceful protests. But we also have to do more. It doesn’t mean violence, but to be more creative and smarter in our protests. The protests have to be impactful, but not violent. Paint-splashing is not violent.
The purpose of paint-splashing is to send a message that they need to stop harassing us. This includes the arrests and the plain-clothed police following us and taking footage of us all the time.
What would you say to those who disagree with your action?
Nothing. In a democratic society, people should be able to say whatever they want.
When they arrested one of the student activists, Jutatip Sirikhan, on 1 September, some people started to apologize to me for criticizing me about the paint-splashing.
What are you fighting for?
It’s not a movement between yellow and red anymore, but instead a fight for justice and changes, and this movement is pure.
I admit, at first [before joining the protest], I thought ‘someone’ was secretly sponsoring these protests. But being with the protestors, I came to understand that this movement is pure and from the heart. This is truly a fight by believers [in democracy], rather than put up to it by someone.