'Penguin' sets up Student Union coalition

'Penguin' sets up Student Union coalition

Students from 10 universities, including activist Parit 'Penguin' Chiwarak (centre, wearing glasses) announce the formation at Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus of the politically driven Student Union of Thailand aiming to tackle undemocratic politics, economic inequality and social injustice. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Students from 10 universities, including activist Parit 'Penguin' Chiwarak (centre, wearing glasses) announce the formation at Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus of the politically driven Student Union of Thailand aiming to tackle undemocratic politics, economic inequality and social injustice. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Led by activist Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, students from 10 universities have set up the Student Union of Thailand in a bid to tackle undemocratic politics, economic inequality and social injustice.

The 10 founding members of the union hail from Maejo University in Chiang Mai, Prince of Songkla University in Pattani, and Thammasat and Chulalongkorn in Bangkok.

The founding declaration stated that it will support and alleviate various problems students face while helping to rebuilding Thailand as a democratic, equal and fair society where human rights are respected.

While members of the Students Federation of Thailand (SFT) have played key roles in Thai politics, especially during the 1970s, Mr Parit said the group has fallen short of its lofty goals in recent years.

The group's four core missions are: Coordinating and organising the movement of students; strengthening their bargaining power; promoting and developing the potential and skills of students; and defending their rights, freedom, welfare and well-being, he said.

"Our first initiative is to abolish the requirement for students who are on the government's Student Loan Fund to commit to 36 hours of community service," Mr Parit said.

"We find this to be an unnecessary burden given they already have to pay interest," said Mr Parit, a Thammasat student who is the acting president of the union pending a formal election.

"Students should reserve the right to commit to helping society at their own discretion, in ways that best fit their circumstances," he added.

Mr Parit is a critic of the current constitution. He joined anti-government rallies including those held by the Democracy Restoration Group, which is affiliated with the People Who Want Elections group.

When asked whether the union would join hands with the pro-election movement, they merely said they would cooperate with all relevant groups expected to benefit the country.

"We can work alongside the pro-election group as their goal is to restore democracy, which directly coincides with our core mission to defend the rights, freedom, welfare and well-being of students and society," said Yamaruddin Songsir, a student and union member.


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