Phuket rally leader Amnuay Kumban urged the crowd, which grew during the day from 2,000 to around 6,000, to protest peacefully.
People should follow only the directions of the three protest leaders – himself, Theerawut Sritularak and Suratin Lien’udom – he said,and not listen to others who are looking to make trouble.
Mr Suratin gave strenuous assurances that there was no plan to shut down Phuket. “We will not close the Sarasin [or other] bridge, the hospitals or the airport. If any of that happens, it’s not us – it’s some bad people.”
The leaders took turns making speeches to raise the spirits of the protesters, who responded by blowing whistles whenever the leaders said something they approved of.
Student representatives – Worapart Upatising from Phuket Witthayalai School, Krittipong Montiensupa from Satree Phuket School and Parit Jongchoowong from Phuket Tai Hua School, also spoke from the stage on Surin Rd, outside the main gates of Provincial Hall.
Mr Worapart read what he called a “joint communique [from the three schools]”, announcing that they wanted Thai politics to be reformed. “I am really tired of this Thai government,” he added. “I want the system to be changed. I don’t accept [caretaker PM] Yingluck [Shinawatra]’s government. I am tried of corruption.”
Mr Krittipong added, “We students will walk through the streets with you.”
At 10 am, after the speeches, the protesters split into two groups. One group, comprising about 1,500 people and led by Mr Suratin, blocked the road into the Provincial Hall, from the gate on Surin Rd to the steps up into the hall.
They were not allowed into the hall, which was shuttered and guarded by police and security volunteers.
Phuket Town police chief Pol Col Sermphan Sirikong told The Phuket News outside the hall, “I don’t think there will be any problem in Phuket. The leaders know what they are doing because I talk with them regularly [about the protest].
“So long as they follow the rules for legal protest – no damage, no injuries – then everything should be okay. They also know our province is a tourist venue.”
The other group paraded through the streets of Phuket Town carrying a huge Thai flag, blowing whistles, and waving other Thai flags in various sizes, following a route from Surin Road to Montri Rd, and then Tilok Utis Rd, before turning right at the Bang Niew intersection.
As they marched, other people came out to swell their ranks, chanting “Yingluck Ork Pai!” (Yingluck, get out!). The march went along Takuapa Rd, left to Suriyadet Circle, then right along Yaowarat Rd, Phang Nga Rd and then LuangPoh Rd, and thence back to Provincial Hall.
Mr Suratin told The Phuket News that, in the days to come, “We will request other government offices to close, and the officials to join us.
“What else we will do depends on what happens in Bangkok next.”