In September, the Thai government started a new project called “United Thais – Strong Thailand” with the intention to promote unity and patriotism. Thai people normally sing or at least stand for the national anthem twice a day at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. At school the students all around the country stand straight at 8 a.m. exactly to sing the national anthem as the flag is raised. It is broadcast on all television and radio stations and also outside government offices and places like railway stations and police stations. I have also sometimes seen policemen stop cars at an intersection at 6 p.m. However, not everyone does it. If they think they can get away with it then they might carry on walking.
The government had this idea that instead of the same recording every night on television, they would ask each province to host the singing of the national anthem. That is why I found myself the other night surrounded by 50,000 people from Samut Prakan waving the national flag and singing both the national anthem and the King’s anthem. The project started back on 20th September with the citizens of Krabi singing the national anthem live on television. It then continued every day, in alphabetical order using Thai letters, until they reached the turn of Samut Prakan two months later.
A few weeks beforehand, letters were sent out to all school, factories and other organizations in the province. Sriwittayapaknam school was asked to send at least 300 students. The same went for other schools. I know it sounds a bit like forcing people to go and show unity in front of the tv cameras. Maybe a bit like what happens at the big parades in North Korea or China. However, there was a genuine excitement about this event with lots of people talking about it. Many of my neighbours went. Also quite a few people in my community. Everyone said afterwards that they were very proud to have been a part of this historic event.
The event was broadcast live on all channels at 6 p.m. but NBT covered the event for a full ten minutes starting at 5.50 p.m. If you thought that we were asked to turn up half an hour before this then you would be wrong. Such a massive crowd needed a lot of organization. People had to register when they arrived and then they were told their designated spot. The majority of people came with their co-workers but there were also a lot of the normal public. You can also imagine the traffic situation outside. Coach after coach after coach dropped people off outside the City Hall Plaza. Unbelievably, the first people started to turn up as early as 3 p.m. I arrived at 4.30 p.m. and the place was already packed.
Everyone was in their correct place when the Governor turned up at 5 p.m. This is when the first of three rehearsals started. As the event was going to be live with multiple cameras, it all had to be done perfectly. Everyone waved their flags, lowered them in unison as the pips went to mark the start of the anthem, sang all together, and then cheered again at the end. We also had performances and the Governor paid respect to a portrait of H.M. The King. We had wonderful weather for this glorious event unlike Samut Sakhon that had a storm while they were bravely singing the anthem. I don’t envy them but they did a good job with no umbrellas.
It was certainly an amazing event of historic proportions. It is not often you see so many people coming together to show their love for a common cause. It was very moving and something I will remember for a long time. I took most of my pictures from down below during the rehearsals, but then went up to the top floor of the District Office to watch the real event. It was just a sea of colour which all of a sudden turned pinkish as the sun set over the Chao Phraya River. A flotilla of ships manned by sailors and also local people also showed their support. The project will finish on the 5th December, which is H.M. The King’s Birthday, with the singing of the anthem in Bangkok.