Social media attacks fail to bring down protest movement’s ‘fairy godparents’
Donations are flooding into the bank accounts of the two main providers of protest supplies ranging from food to inflatable rubber ducks, in a sign of ongoing public support for the pro-democracy movement’s actions.
It is therefore possible that singer/actress Inthira “Sine” Charoenpura – dubbed the protesters’ fairy godmother – and her ally Pakorn “Hia Bung” Pornchewangkurn may have a second thought about their announcement that their “magic team” will channel all their efforts into taking care of injured protesters from December 2 onwards.
Thursday’s announcement came after a protest guard was shot and critically injured at Wednesday’s rally, which prompted netizens to ask what Inthira and Pakorn were doing with the donations. Wednesday’s rally for royal reforms saw protesters gather at the headquarters of Siam Commercial Bank, in which the King holds the biggest stake.
Protest donors asked why their money was being spent on props like inflatable yellow ducks and green aliens, but not on protective gear for volunteer guards.
“Guards on the frontline have no protective gear, yet Bt20,000 was spent on an army of inflatable aliens,” one critic said.
Questions about how Inthira and Pakorn are spending the donations have been trending for days.
Apparently frustrated by the queries, the two eventually spoke up to say the inflatable aliens had not been bought but were donated for use at protests. The two celebrities added that the inflatable yellow ducks that have become the movement’s mascot were light enough to be carried and served as shields against chemical-laced water fired at protesters.
For a day or two, it seemed as if Inthira and Pakorn were back-pedalling. Responding to growing criticism, they said they had put their heart and effort into supplying protesters with what they needed or asked for. It was not possible to provide bulletproof vests or anti-riot shields because these were controlled items, they explained.
Inthira insisted that every baht donated was spent on practical necessities at each protest. “We bought safety helmets with donors’ money, but spent our own funds on the yellow-duck themed accessories,” she said.
Meanwhile, providing thorough accounts of exactly how each donation was spent would be far too complicated, they added.
“If you want detailed explanations, then you will need to hire an accountant to do the job,” she said.
The pair have also offered to return money to donors who are unhappy with how their money was spent.
“Just show me a copy of the transfer and I will return your donation,” she said.
As to whether she would welcome a review of her bank account, Inthira dismissed the possibility, saying the donors should remain anonymous.
Riding Back in Style
Despite the funding quarrel, the yellow ducks and other fanciful protest props have not disappeared. On Friday, they surfaced in full force when protesters gathered at Bangkok’s Lat Phrao intersection for a “coup drill”.
Also present at the protest were Pakorn and Inthira, both with a big smile. By Friday night, it was clear that the “magic team” had not lost its charm, as donations began pouring into their bank accounts again.
“Mine and Sine’s bank accounts are now flooded with donations,” Pakorn announced on social media, with Inthira adding: “Maybe they [donors] don’t want us to fade from the scene.”
Pakorn also pointed out that the cute props, especially the bright yellow ducks, had attracted both local and international media coverage for the protesters’ cause.
For now, the “fairy godparents’” are continuing their longstanding support of the anti-establishment movement – which includes supplying everything from food to mobile toilets.
Since July, the youth-led protesters have been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, a new Constitution and reform of the monarchy.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk