Thailand protest: Young activists are embracing Hong Kong’s tactics

Thai democracy activists are increasingly adopting tactics used by their counterparts in Hong Kong, as they defy a ban on gatherings after months of mounting protests targeting the prime minister and king.

When demonstrators in Bangkok held up umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas fired for the first time last Friday, it was strikingly reminiscent of the anti-government protests that shook the Chinese territory last year.

From helmets and gas masks to flashmobs and hand signals, Thailand’s student-led movement is drawing on the experience of Hong Kong’s young activists in its own fight for change.

Here are two echoes of the Hong Kong protests adopted by Thailand protestors

Leaderless movement: ‘We are all leaders today’

After the arrest of many of Thailand’s protest leaders last week, activists have changed tack.

“They think arresting the leaders will stop us,” Pla, a 24-year-old demonstrator, told thousands of protesters at Bangkok’s Victory Monument on Sunday. “It’s no use. We are all leaders today.”

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Dethrone Monarchy!!

The absence of a centralised leadership was a defining feature of the seven straight months of protests that rocked Hong Kong – and what many say sustained the movement for so long.

While there were figureheads, decision-making was devolved with protesters commonly using online forums and the secure messaging app Telegram to organise – and gather in large numbers quickly.

In Thailand the use of Telegram has skyrocketed in recent days. Protesters have used it to co-ordinate rallies since the government ban on political gatherings of more than four people was implemented last week.

A new language of protest: Hand signs

Over the weekend a new language evolved on the streets of Bangkok. The building blocks were borrowed from Hong Kong.

To signal they needed helmets, activists raised their hands in a triangle above their heads. By crossing their fingers they showed someone was injured. Swirling an index finger in an anti-clockwise direction was a warning to disperse.

The savvy use of hand signals was first observed in Hong Kong where they became indispensable for protesters communicating across huge crowds. Thai activists have incorporated this language of signs as well as sprouting homegrown signals shared through infographics on social media.

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