Protesters flock for Ratchadamnoen photo ops

Supporters of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) flocked to Democracy Monument yesterday to take souvenir photos after leader Suthep Thaugsuban announced the rally stage would be taken down next week.

Mr Suthep said his group would leave the Ratchadamnoen Avenue site it had occupied for the past two months on Jan 13, the launch date of his "Bangkok Shutdown" campaign.

The protesters will regroup at 20 major intersections around Bangkok in a bid to cripple the capital and force the government to step down. However, they will not return to Democracy Monument.

Mr Suthep encouraged the demonstrators to take photos with Democracy Monument in the background before the main rally stage is taken down.

Protesters queued up to take photos at the monument yesterday as a souvenir of their two-month occupation, which began when Mr Suthep moved the rally stage from the Samsen area on Nov 4.

"This has been my second home," said protester Hem Luyjun, 84, from Nakhon Si Thammarat.

She has participated in the anti-government push since December and has joined its activities in several locations, including some overnight stays.

"I have slept at the Finance Ministry and the Government Complex," she said, referring to when the protesters seized those buildings.

"But there is no place like here on Ratchadamnoen. It's the most convenient and familiar location for me. But I would go anywhere to help Kamnan Thep [Mr Suthep's nickname] bring back Thailand to His Majesty the King and my children.

"I'm not doing this for myself, as I'm too old and will die soon."

Amorn Manee-nete, 52, another protester, said: "This [Ratchadamnoen Avenue] has been the road for democracy fighters for decades.

"It's a second home for people who share the same principles.

"If we don't gather here, peace might not happen in our real homes," the Buri Ram resident said.

Sawat Rattanee, 69, from Satun, has taken part in the anti-government rally for the past 14 days and nights.

"The main stage is situated on a historical route, but history can occur anywhere," he said.

"I'm more than ready to move anywhere to drive out this government.

"I've already taken photos with Democracy Monument and the rally stage in the background as a memento of my part in this.

"I have come with my wife and it has been like a second honeymoon."

Auttapiya Sontagaman, 29, who owns a curry puff shop on Din So Road next to Democracy Monument, said her daily income had soared during the rally. "Some days I have sold up to 200% more than usual," she said.

"Before the rally, some days I would not profit at all."

In addition to her main shop, Ms Auttapiya said that she often set up stalls to sell her curry puffs at special events and fairs, but she couldn't do that at the rally site.

"The rally guards thoroughly checked my car and traffic was bad. This made me uncomfortable," she said.

Another Din So food vendor, Phusadee _ who asked to withhold her surname _ said she too enjoyed a sales boom during the rally but expected business to return to normal once the protesters move on.

"Normally, I can sell about 100 boxes of food, but this number increased to 150-200 during the rally," she said.

"When the protesters move, of course my income will be reduced, but I can still earn a profit from selling 100 boxes of food."

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