Samsen protesters dish up real food for thought

Those motivated to take their opposition to the controversial bill to the streets might be hungry for change, but it takes more than just speeches to satisfy their appetite

The proverb "an army marches on its stomach" is not only suited to military operations. It is also apt for political rallies.

In the past decade, from yellow-shirt to red-shirt to multi-colour-shirt political rallies, and on to the Democrat Party rally in Samsen today, food has been a key factor in prolonging protests.

Organisers pay as much attention to food services at rally sites as to speeches.

At the Samsen protest, the Democrat Party has drawn a large number of supporters to rally against the government-supported amnesty bill.

During the first two days of the gathering which started on Oct 31, it was estimated that more than 10,000 people turned out each night, especially during prime time around 8pm.

Given the large number of supporters, Democrat Party members together with private supporters have prepared a wide range of dishes to be provided around the clock.

Behind the main demonstration stage, protesters can find long rows of food booths with volunteer chefs from several provinces of the country.

Many of the stalls are part of the Khrua Chao Tai (southerners' kitchen) campaign, which was initiated by the opposition party in 2011. The campaign recruited volunteers to prepare free food to affected people during the major floods of that year.

The Khrua Chao Tai presence at the Samsen protest site is divided into many food booths with different names representing key supporters, such as Khrua Suthep, which is supported by Surat Thani MP Suthep Thaugsuban, and Khrua Surat and Khrua Chumphon, which are supported by volunteers from Surat Thani and Chumphon provinces.

Each booth offers several different dishes ranging from chicken or pork boiled rice for breakfast to the spicy dishes unique to the South such as kua kling, dried pork or spicy beef curry, crisp salty fried pork with fried cabbage and mixed vegetable soup, spicy fried fish balls served with southern-style spicy tamarind paste soup, and several kinds of pickled lettuce and tender pork rib soup for lunch and dinner.

"We are here 24/7," a female chef said while putting rice on paper plates for a protester.

"Some people stay here all day and all night as they have the same thoughts _ that they do not want the country to go in the wrong direction.

"We are glad to volunteer and cook for them," she said.

But it is not only southern food on offer, as the protesters have different tastes. A booth next door is serving Isan food favourites such as som tam (spicy papaya salad) with grilled chicken and sticky rice.

There are also some booths available for Muslim and Indian food. They offer mainly biryani, a rice-based dish made with spices and beef or chicken. Steamed rice with chicken and home made beefburger are also on offer.

"We are from Khu Khwa in Min Buri," a female Muslim chef said while serving chicken biryani.

"We have a Muslim food shop there and decided to join to give people some yummy Muslim food."

Apart from such traditional food, other booths offer quick and easy dishes such as rice with kai jiew (Thai-style omelette), chicken and noodles, and even instant noodle cups.

"There are at least 32 food booths around here," said Democrat MP Nantaporn Weerakulsunthorn, one of the food sponsors.

"We realised there are some people coming to the protest after work and they may have not had a meal. These temporary kitchens are open all day long as we have volunteers from many different places."

About the author

Writer: Nattha Thepbamrung
Position: Reporter