Reading protest

Reading protests BKKI am deeply moved by reports of silent reading protests against the coup in Bangkok.

According to the independent online newspaper Prachatai English, the silent reading protests started on 27 May and have been ongoing, with people gathering in groups of four to read in silence at various locations in Bangkok, including the pedestrian flyovers around the Skytrain stations.

The Prachatai post reports that people have been reading books such as George Orwell’s 1984, and Noli Me Tangere by Filipino revolutionary writer Jose Rizal.

Photos from the Prachatai site, reproduced above, show Thais of different ages taking part in the protest.

Martial law, declared by the military in Thailand on 20 May 2014, bans more than five people from gathering together for political purposes.

Silent reading strikes me as a simple but profound way to oppose a repressive regime. It embraces intellectual freedom in the face of arbitrary detentions. It supports the right to education in defiance of forces that would keep people ignorant. It celebrates the free flow of information during a time of brutal censorship.

And it does all this in a way that is legal and peaceful.

I salute the bravery of those involved in this creative and profound protest. I’d like to think I’d have the courage to join you on the pedestrian walkways if I was in Bangkok right now. I’d be the one reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood…

What about you? What book would you take if you were joining the silent reading protest in Bangkok?

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel is, Mother of Pearl, published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, is former CEO of Writers Victoria, and currently works as CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.
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9 Responses to Reading protest

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    I salute them as well, Angela. It is very heartening to see these people showing their courage.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would take Free Thai: Personal Recollections and Official Documents, compiled by Wimon Wiriyawit (White Lotus, 1997), about a small group of Thais who worked during WWII under cover to liberate Thailand from the Japanese occupation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kathy d. says:

    This is a wonderful idea of a protest. It may be a first! And Caron’s suggestion is one I may follow up by looking for this book.
    It also reminds me that there was so much resistance in Asia to Japan’s militarism. We don’t remember that so much in the West.
    While I was writing on a blog about European resistance in many ways, I thought of Asian resistance and how we don’t often think about it in the West. We write about European casualties, but omit those in Asia, but tens of millions were killed. And it’s so good to
    find out about opposition and resistance, which I’m sure went on all over Asia and it’s
    a fairly unknown history over here.


    • angelasavage says:

      I agree, Kathy. It’s great to see coverage of resistance in Asia, although I note that you have to seek it out on websites. I haven’t seen much in the way of mainstream media coverage of the protests. Given Thailand’s close proximity to Australia, it’s shameful how little gets reported on the post-coup situation,


  4. Angela, thanks for this post. It’s such a unique and non-violent form of protest. In spite of the silence, the message is loud and clear.


  5. Kathy, you’re so right. For example, in Australia, we hear a lot about the Death Railway, Hellfire Pass and the PoWs in Kanchanaburi in World War II. But we hear so little about the hundreds of thousands of Thais and people from other Asian countries who also died working on that project.


  6. kathy d. says:

    It is shameful what we in the West do not know about casualties or Resistance in Asia during WWII. I know a bit about Resistance in China, but I’m sure my knowledge is miniscule compared to the real scale of active opposition there and throughout Asia.
    I looked up a U.S. WWII site listing casualties, and it said China had lost 20 million people, Philippines, up to 1 million and Korea up to 1/2 million. Thailand and other Asian countries weren’t even listed.
    The losses are still stunning, but remiss in leaving out several countries.
    I may try to find the book Caron mentions, as it sounds interesting and a contribution
    to knowledge about an important movement in Thailand. Thank you.


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