The Thai Protest Leader Emerged with a Kiss

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09/10/020

It was with a kiss that student activist Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree first took centre stage in Thai politics. His embrace with his boyfriend at parliament as they campaigned for gay marriage rights last December shocked conservatives and stirred a social media storm. Nine months on, the changes he now demands for Thailand are even more fundamental for the protest movement challenging an establishment long dominated by the army and the palace. “I’m confused as to how I got here,” Tattep, 23, told Reuters. Since mid-July, protesters have been calling for the departure of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former coup leader. They want a new constitution, fresh elections and an end to the harassment of activists. Some protesters also seek reforms to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Royal Palace. Although there is no overall leader of the fragmented movement – and activists say they want to keep it that way – a July 18 protest by Tattep’s Free Youth Movement unexpectedly drew some 2,500 people and helped to build momentum for almost daily demonstrations since. “At that time, there was no one leading the protest, so I decided to do it,” said Tattep, also known by the nickname Ford.

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