Protests against the Russian invasion of Ukraine continued for a second day in the Thai capital Sunday with several hundred demonstrators marching from Bangkok’s Lumpini Park to Benchakitti Park.
Ukrainian software engineer Oleklsandr Polieno has lived in Thailand for six years. He flew from the island of Phuket to attend the demonstration.
“This one thing we can do abroad to show support. It just shows that everyone understands what’s happening in Ukraine and Ukrainians over there have support,” he told VOA.
Sophie is a Ukrainian art teacher who did not want to give her last name. She says her family in Ukraine is suffering.
“Putin started this war. Our families are suffering. They are in basements, without water, without food, they cannot sleep. They are scared. A few hours ago, Russia started hard fighting in our city. They are in basements, praying,” she told VOA.
Alexandra Bieliaieva is from the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa. “I don’t want my daughter to go back to my country. I hope my mother and sister can run away. I hope my mother can leave the country,” she told VOA.
On a hot afternoon in Bangkok, some protesters played music from portable speakerphones, including the Ukrainian national anthem and songs from the local rock band Okean Elzy. The demonstration was peaceful throughout, with many people wearing flags or clothes in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Natalia is a Russian web developer who did not want to give her last name. She wore Ukrainian colors to protest her country’s invasion.
“I’ve been crying the past two days. What can I do? It’s a nightmare to see it from the other side.”
She says Russian media are distorting the invasion.
“They are saying Putin is a hero. Save Russians from everywhere, and we should fight for our people. It’s like a victory already. Totally brainwashed. I think we’re going to the North Korea way,” she added.
Seventeen-year-old Taras Golokoz has dual Ukrainian-Thai nationality. He told VOA he is worried about his grandparents living in Mykolaiv.
“They feel quite scared sometimes when they hear the Russian helicopters fly. I feel worried because they might get shot at any time. But they have a good supply of emergencies [supplies] inside their house, and they also [have] got a bomb shelter in case there are airstrikes.”
Ukrainian performing artist Lydia Zhuravlova says Russian forces killed her whole family seven years ago during their invasion of the Donbas region.
“I have lost my family due to the first invasion. Now the second invasion has started. Today I’m standing and fighting for my land, which has remained to me from my family. We need financial support, weapons and humanitarian support for our citizens because Ukraine is literally fighting alone,” she told VOA.
Roman Vasylyovch helped organize the protests. He says there will be another demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in Bangkok on Monday.
“We solve our plan from action, not from words. We can think, speak for a long time but for that time they can kill a million people. More action, more help for Ukraine,” he added.
Thailand’s government has not commented publicly on the invasion, unlike other Southeast Asian countries including Singapore and Indonesia.
The regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Thailand, has made a statement calling all parties to “exercise maximum restraint” including “diplomatic means to contain the situation.”
Pravit Rojanaphruk, a veteran journalist at news site Khaosod English believes the Thai government doesn’t want to get involved for economic reasons.
“I think Thailand has good relations with Russia. Russian tourist companies compose a big chunk of Western tourists to Thailand,” he told VOA.
Tourism is crucial to the Thai economy. In 2019, tourism accounted for approximately 11% of Thailand’s gross domestic product with around 20% of Thais employed in the tourism sector, according to the Bank of Thailand.
Elsewhere in Asia, there have been pro-Ukraine protests in Taiwan and Japan in recent days, with both of those governments announcing they will impose sanctions on Russia.