Thai democracy leaders gain inspiration from Gwangju Democratization Movement

Posted on : 2020-09-24 18:04 KST Modified on : 2020-09-24 18:04 KST
May 18 Memorial Foundation sends message of support for young demonstrators
Parit Chiwarak (left) and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul speak during a pro-democracy demonstration in Bangkok on Sept. 20. (Yonhap News)
Parit Chiwarak (left) and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul speak during a pro-democracy demonstration in Bangkok on Sept. 20. (Yonhap News)

Thai democracy demonstration leaders Parit Chiwarak, 22, and Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, 23, shared a message of thanks in response to a statement of support sent from South Korea.

On Sept. 23, the two shared a message via the South Korea office of Dialogue China -- an organization of pro-democracy activists in Sinosphere countries -- thanking South Korea’s May 18 Memorial Foundation for its message of support for the Thai democracy demonstrations. Describing the May 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement as a “history of democracy and freedom in Asia,” they explained that they had “seen through South Korean films how the South Korean people fought against dictators.”

“That was a source of inspiration to us in terms of the values of democracy and freedom. We hope to help the Thai people enjoy the same freedom that South Koreans do,” they added.

On Sept. 22, the May 18 Memorial Foundation issued a statement saying, “The bold actions of young Thai people for the sake of democracy and an equal society resemble the young people of South Korea who boldly stood up in the past for democratization.”

“We must not allow Thailand to experience the same sacrifices that occurred over the course of South Korea’s democratization battle. The Thai government must guarantee its young people’s right to demonstrate peacefully and immediately call off its violent suppression tactics,” the statement continued.

Parit, who has spearheaded demonstrations against the Thai government alongside fellow activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 21, reportedly learned about the history of the South Korean democratization movement while taking part in a 2018 commemoration ceremony for May 1980 in Gwangju. He also met and interacted at the time with Sunny Cheung, a leader of the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong. Thailand, Hong Kong, and Taiwan have formed the “Milk Tea Alliance” for democracy as part of a joint response under Netiwit’s leadership.

“Since hearing about the May 18 Memorial Foundation’s statement through Netiwit, Parit and the others have drawn great strength from South Korea’s support,” said Dialogue China representative Lee Dae-sun.

An outcry erupted among the Thai public in July of this year after prosecutors decided not to press charges against Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the 35-year-old grandson of the co-founder of the globally popular drink Red Bull, in connection with a hit-and-run incident that caused a police officer’s death in 2012. Demonstrations have been taking place in Thailand for the past two months as the incident has fueled an anti-government campaign to demand reforms to the monarchy.

By Kim Yong-hee, Gwangju correspondent

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