Skateboarders join rallyists against Thai PM

This photo taken on September 7, 2021 shows skateboarders gathering during an anti-government protest calling for the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha outside the Democracy Monument in Bangkok. AFP PHOTO

PATAYA: Thai kickflip skateboarders are returning the bird to authorities, joining pro-democracy rallies in Bangkok to express their anger at the disrespect and public space dedicated to extreme sports in the kingdom.

A pro-democracy youth-led movement started in Thailand in July last year, demanding reforms of the monarchy, a rewrite of the constitution written by the military and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-cha .

A deadly third wave of coronavirus and the detention of protest leaders have sucked a lot of momentum from the movement this year, but there have been near-daily small-scale rallies since June.

The slow roll-out of Thailand’s immunization program and financial difficulties caused by the restrictions have increased political pressure on the Prayut government.

In a recent protest at the Democracy Monument – a major intersection in Bangkok – groups of skaters slid on metal bars and benches while others climbed the central part of the monument to drape a giant fabric banner with anti-government messages.

Nattakarn Tewarit, 17, said he and his fellow skaters are unfairly maligned as troublemakers and deserve greater respect after the sport was first included in the recent Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“We are seeing skateboarders being chased away by police and security guards,” he told Agence France-Presse (AFP), adding that building new skateparks would mean fewer collisions with pedestrians in the area. public spaces.

“Normal protesters use their voice as a tool against the government, but we use skateboards – they are our weapon.”

Skater Thana, 19, is upset with the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and said most skateboarders are working-class youth whose families have been hit hardest by the pandemic and the restrictions.

As of Wednesday, new cases totaled nearly 12,000 after peaking at 23,000 infections per day last month – but testing rates have also fallen. The closure of Bangkok’s few dedicated skateparks, as part of the restrictions, also had an impact on the community.

“This is where lost souls come together,” Thana told AFP, adding that the hobby has helped many of her friends cope with depression. “It’s more than just a sport.”

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