Walking along with the protesters yesterday was almost like deja vu, because the chant "Yingluck, Aok Pai" ("Yingluck, Get Out!") was just like the chant "Thaksin, Aok Pai!" that was heard back in 2006. This chant, matched with loud whistle blowing, was heard even though Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced earlier yesterday that she was dissolving the House.
Though this year's protest and the one in 2006 have similar aims, they aren't carbon copies. For instance, the weapon of choice this time is a whistle instead of a handclapper, and unlike the yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy-led protest in 2006, people this time are not relying that much on protest leaders other than deciding which route they are going to take. Most of the marching groups have one or two trucks announcing cheerful messages. My group, which started at Chulalongkorn University, had two trucks for the kilometre-plus rally.
Another major difference this year was the high, well-organised, volunteer spirit of the people. "I'm so impressed that there is a truck offering services to the people in the march," fellow protester Alongod Uabhaibool said. He was referring to the truck that was offering cool drinking water, band aids and was collecting garbage.
Booths offering drinking water also lined the street as protesters moved from different directions toward Government House via Phetchaburi Road. In fact, one vendor was generously handing out free water to thirsty passers-by.
On Sukhumvit Road, Yuttichai Veeravong, the owner of Pak Bakery on Sukhumvit 23, decided to close his shop and join his friends in handing out freshly baked pastries, food and medical supplies to passers-by. Another woman was seen riding around on her tricycle handing out sticky rice with salty shredded pork.
These people were in no way connected to the protest leaders, but were doing what they could to help.
Loud cheers greeted the protesters as they marched down the streets, and though under normal conditions, motorists would have cursed them, this time many rolled down their windows and greeted them by small Thai flags and whistling back.
Though some businesses were open, their staff members made it a point to come out and greet the protesters. Some even joined the rally, like the staff at Rajthevi Dental Station, who stood outside with a banner reading "Yingluck, Aok Pai".
With the traffic at an almost standstill at times, it was gratifying to see protesters directing cars and making way for them to pass through safely.
Though the protesters this time didn't appear to be too serious, what with them sporting all kinds of accessories and constantly taking "selfies" and group pics, it may be unfair to judge them on outward appearances. In reality, they are people with a high volunteer spirit taking part in something they believe in.
Whether they achieve their goal or not, at least this protest proves that we, as a people, have matured and now think about society rather than just ourselves.