Thailand: Biggest Mayday rally in decades

A one-kilometer long march of workers celebrated May Day in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. A moderate estimate puts the number of participants on the rally at 60 to 80.000 workers. No doubt this was the biggest workers march on May Day for decades. More important was the fact that this time the May Day rally was organized without the support of the government. It was also probably one of the most combative ones. The driving force behind this massive gathering is the two-month old struggle against the privatization of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). The bulk of the demonstrators came from this protest movement.

Nevertheless the demo was representative of a wider layer of workers and poor farmers on the move in Thailand. Organizations of urban poor and the slum communities were actively present. Dam construction victims mixed with farmers and many private sector workers who support the anti-privatization drive. The ongoing protest against the privatization is also strengthening other unions such as the textile and garment unions. More generally this May Day rally shows a general strengthening and new confidence of the Thai labour movement which is putting itself at the head of the anti-privatization protest and has the potential to unite all the oppressed and poor of Thailand. That's the meaning of the nine-point program of demands presented at the May Day rally.

The growing consciousness of the Thai workers is also reflected in the slogans carried at the demo. The main banner - a 10-meter high vertical red flag - carried a clear message: 'Workers Unite Against Global Capitalism'. The international character of workers' struggle was highlighted by the presence at the May Day rally of a representative of the South African union Cosatu and also of delegations of international campaigns like 'Our world is not for sale' and 'Fair Olympics'.

The mood of radicalization and increased commitment by the workers was reflected in the final speeches.

Lek Yimpraset of the Thai Labour Campaign stressed the need for increased sacrifice of the workers: 'I know you are very warm (the temperature was 37 degrees Celsius), that you are hungry and you are tired, but if you cannot tolerate it for one day to bring the success of our demands, we will be tired, starving and defeated all our life'.

Somsak, the leader of the electricity workers concluded by warning the government: 'This time we come out for one day, but next time we come to the government house. That means we want to go back home then'.

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