Regime challenges

25 11 2014

Readers following Thailand’s politics will recognize that there have been a series of events that have challenged the military dictatorship in recent days. These events may be suppressed, but they represent a turn in events, as anti-coup activists are not simply going away, as the regime had hoped.

Many of these activists are relatively young students. They have used three-finger salutes, social media and a a range of activities to directly challenge the junta and its royalist regime. They are seemingly inviting arrest by the jittery authorities. They seem unafraid of the prospect of police or military action against them.

The most recent example is of university students at Thammasat University’s inner city campus. At least eight students distributed leaflets at the campus celebrating the return to Facebook of prominent historian and monarchy critic Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who went into hiding after the 22 May coup and who has apparently fled to France.Leaflet

Police swiftly arrested eight students for distributing the leaflets. According to Khaosod, the leaflets included “an excerpt from a poem by the late historian and activist Chit Phumisak, who was summarily executed by authorities in 1966,” which had been cited by Somsak on Facebook. It stated: “Even in the ruthless era when evils rule the country with their guns … people are still people.”

The student activists were members of the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD), described as “an anti-coup student group based in Thammasat.” This group has been a persistent and brave opponent of the military dictatorship.

Prachatai reports that: “One of the detained students is Natchacha Kongudom, a Bangkok University student who was previously arrested for flashing the forbidden ‘three finger salute’ in front of Siam Paragon cinema in Bangkok downtown on 19 November.”

Persistent challenges to the military and royalist regime by brave young students are emblematic of a broader change that has wafted through Thailand in recent decades and suggests a rejection of the hierarchical traditions of monarchy and military that may well become louder and will resonate more widely as the regime seeks to re-embed authoritarian structures.

In responding, the military dictatorship has urged that protests be curtailed. General Prawit Wongsuwan babbled about “opinion surveys that show most people disapprove of anti-coup protests.” Prawit asked that protesters keep quiet for a year: “We only ask for one year to achieve our mission…”. Meanwhile, The Dictator has directed the National Reform Council (NRC) and the King Prajadhipok Institute to “allow students to participate in the reform process by expressing their views and knowledge.” This seems like his attempt to direct student opposition into the junta’s controlled environment.




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