January 15, 2014 00:00 By Budsarakham Sinlapalavan
Som Tam (papaya salad) with pickled fish is the most popular dish at the anti-government protesters' stage set up at Lat Phrao Intersection.
Issara Somchai hosted the crowd there yesterday. They come mostly from the Northeast and some from the north, commonly thought of as the red-shirt base, and now occupy this Lat Phrao stage area.
There are about 10 kitchens to support these protesters from the northeast – so the main dishes are cucumber salad, traditional papaya salad or with salted crab or pickled fish.
Other foods on offer are “kaeng om” bitter curry, fermented fish condiment and fried cow-peas with red curry paste.
Nawamongkol Koosakul, a protester from Udon Thani, said on stage that red-shirt leader Kwanchai Sarakham had claimed Udon Thani is the capital city of the red-shirt movement. But this isn’t true, he said, because Udon Thani does not just have a red-shirt organisation, there is another group too.
He told The Nation that the PDRC in Udon Thani had been threatened by the red shirts every time it held a rally. So the PDRC always informed the police and asked them to keep the peace among the protesters.
Now these Udon Thani protesters have come to the Bangkok rally site in a fleet of five buses, personal cars and by plane.
Nawamongkol added that when the Udon Thani people arrived and joined the protest at Lat Phrao, they set up a kitchen.
“An army marches on its stomach – so we want to set up the Udon Thani kitchen for all protesters who join in the rally,” he said.
The Udon Kitchen – as it’s called – prepares ingredients from their province.
Similarly, the female cook at the Buri Ram kitchen, Arunsawas Saengphet, said she prepares ingredients from Buri Ram including papaya and pickled fish. As she prepared her papaya salad, she told how this kitchen had 20 cooks to provide food for the protesters. And on Monday she started cooking at 5am.
Even though they prepared numerous ingredients from their hometown, the pickled fish was all gone by noon.
Another female cook confirmed that northeastern people like to eat papaya salad and it was the signature for the kitchen.
She also resisted the idea that the Northeast was the main base of the red shirts. “Today Isaan people have woken up and we do not believe our region is the hometown of the red shirts,” she said.
A female government officer from Khon Kaen, she said she flew to Bangkok on Saturday and would return to her hometown Monday night.
She said she hoped to see the reform of Thailand and education was the most important thing she wanted to see changed.
Thai people should know their rights, she said, but today’s government covers the people’s eyes and ears and keeps the benefits for themselves.
She said that at the PDRC rally at Khon Kaen, red shirts often threatened PDRC protesters. Whenever PDRC Khon Kaen plans a parade, the red shirts hold a rally too, so the PDRC protesters must change their march route to avoid a conflict.
Kaewalin Tangbenjapon, a protester from Sukhothai province, said she supported reform before an election because today Thailand was faced with more corruption.
Moreover, if the snap election on February 2 goes ahead, there will not be enough MPs to open a House session.
She added she would stay with the anti-government protesters until the country had been reformed.
“[That’s] the best way to solve the political situation, by reforming the country,” she said.
The People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) gathering at Lat Phrao intersection was one of seven main stages and the crowd numbers increased all day.
On stage and addressing the crowd were protesters from the Isaan provinces and artists such as Aod Kiriboon, Tono Pakin Kumwilaisuk, Taengmo Pathida and Yong Lookyee.
And for some of the time on stage, artists from the Northeast demonstrated to their friends in Bangkok their style of singing.