Resistance by Reading: Thai Protesters Read Books in Public in Defiance of Coup
June 4, 2014
About a dozen people gathered in a busy elevated walkway connecting several of Bangkok’s shopping malls to sit and read openly, defying the May 22 seizure of power and the repression that followed. Though political gatherings of five or more people have been banned, low-key protests like this one are not in clear violation of any laws. However, Junta-ruled Thailand is a country run by the military, which has vowed to extinguish any anti-coup protests, and so the act of reading has been transformed into a form of dissent. The protestors read titles such as George Orwell’s 1984, Kurt Schock’s Unarmed Insurrections, and Thak Chaloemtiarana’s Thailand: The Politics of Despotic Paternalism.
According to a human rights activist identified only by her nickname Mook, “People are angry about this coup, but they can’t express it. So we were looking for an alternative way to resist, a way that is not confrontational. And one of those ways is reading.”
The recent coup deposed a fragile democracy under attack. Junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha claims military involvement was necessary to restore order and end the crippling protests and violence plaguing the former government. The junta issued warnings against any further inciting activities as it will tolerate no rebellions. Kasama Na Nagara, a participant in the book readings, said there were about twenty participants. Though the group has now met three times, they have been careful to avoid soldiers. When troops showed up to a prospective site for a protest, the group called it off.
“We have Big Brother watching us now,” Kasama said. “It has become too risky to speak out. It’s sad. But it’s safer to be silent in Thailand right now.”
Source: Huffington Post