The past week has seen several rallies and demonstrations, most of them directed against government policy. Some, like the colourful Democrat Party street rallies in Bangkok, have been informative. Others, such as a consumer-driven demonstration against LPG price rises at the Energy Ministry and PTT Plc, were emotionally-charged, yet peaceful. One overstepped legal bounds. Rubber farmers, concerned about low prices, last week began blocking a highway in Nakhon Si Thammarat to demand economic relief.
Clearly, public protest is a protected right of all Thai citizens. It is part of freedom of speech, a vital necessity in any country that claims to be free. No rational Thai argues against the right of the public to gather, to petition the government, or simply to protest or champion any cause. Many countries forbid or closely regulate such protests, and not one of those countries is admirable or worth emulating.
Like all rights, however, freedom of speech and public demonstrations have legal and ethical limits. Blocking a busy highway in Cha-uat district is unacceptable. No matter how important the rubber farmers believe their cause to be, they must not infringe on other citizens' rights to travel on public roads.