Police are defying govt

Police are defying govt

While the government and authorities should respect students' freedom of expression and be open-minded towards their demands, the students movement also needs to respect the law to justify its moves.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he is ready to hold talks with them to hear what direction they want to see the country move in. But the latest actions of authorities are undermining his efforts.

Last Thursday, Gen Prayut spoke of the importance of young people in a national televised address.

"The future belongs to the young, and also our future is in the hands of the young. Let the young lead the way and provide the moral leadership to show us all how to take the difficult path of collaboration with people who may disagree with us in times of national hardship for the sake of the many millions suffering right now," the prime minister said.

Unfortunately, a day after his address, police arrested student leader Parit Chiwarak on multiple charges including sedition.

According to police, the charges are linked to his role at an anti-government rally on July 18 at the Democracy Monument where protesters floated three demands.

They asked the government to stop threatening people who come out to exercise their democratic rights; rewrite the constitution; and dissolve the House of Representatives.

Some of the 14 protest leaders who attended the event also faced warrants on the charges.

Gen Prayut is keeping his distance from the authorities' actions. According to Traisulee Taisaranakul, deputy government spokeswoman, Gen Prayut insisted he had never ordered police to arrest student leaders. Everything was at the police's discretion and he did not have the authority to intervene in police work.

Is it true? The prime minister cannot do anything even if police actions, in effect, are undermining his efforts to persuade students to engage in talks and solve problems?

In fact, the protesters' demands floated on July 18 are fine and debatable. Their right to freedom of expression and peaceful rallies are endorsed by the constitution.

But police actions have only intensified tensions.

Some critics believe the police move is intended to threaten young protesters after their rally at Thammasat University, Rangsit campus, on Aug 10, "crossed the line". The students proposed 10 demands for reforms of the monarchy and held activities which several parties viewed as offending the monarchy.

As the students decided to touch on such sensitive issues, causing deep division, they have to keep strictly to the law.

Speaking about the monarchy is not a crime as long as it is done constructively and does not cause offence or is intended to insult, actions which are deemed to be in violation of Section 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law.

Students may have the right to propose changes to the law but unless the law is changed, they must respect it.

It cannot be denied the student protests evolved from anti-government rallies over the dissolution of the Future Forward Party on Feb 21.

The students need to keep their distance from this political group to ensure there is no one pulling their strings. Only peaceful, constructive and innocent protests can protect the students and justify their actions and demands at this critical time.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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