Student drive against govt to gain pace
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Student drive against govt to gain pace

Progressives may get post-virus backing

Student protests are set to get a boost from those suffering from economic woes amid the political struggle between the incumbent government and the Progressive Movement once the coronavirus outbreak subsides, a political forum was told.

Assoc Prof Puangthong Pawakapan, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Political Science, said the student movement will make a comeback three to four months after the lockdown is lifted.

"It might take another half-year for students to organise a big protest, but I believe that their flame won't be put out easily because the cause of their anger is still there, which is the military regime of Gen Prayut [Chan-o-cha, the prime minister] and its allies," she told the virtual forum on "Thai Politics Beyond Covid-19: Underpinnings, Directions, Prospects" held on Friday by the Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS) Thailand.

"The government is very good at adding fuel to the fire. Their nepotism, incompetence, ignorance and indifference to people's suffering will reemerge after the pandemic is gone."

Assoc Prof Puangthong said the student protests will be larger than those before the pandemic, garnering the support of those suffering financially or who were otherwise left out of the relief package schemes, particularly the 5,000-baht cash handout.

She said the Progressive Movement, a reincarnation of the now-defunct Future Forward Party (FFP), will continue to challenge the regime and experience resistance from the establishment, creating a confrontational environment for young voters to engage in politics.

That, said Assoc Prof Puangthong, could lead them to take "the fight to the streets".

"The movement of young voters is not only for the Progressive Movement of Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit, former leader of the FFP], but against the obsolete authoritarian military regime and its allies. They demand a functional democratic system which the Prayut government can't give them," she said.

Meanwhile, Jade Donavanik, the chairman of the Faculty of Law at the College of Asian Scholars and former constitutional drafter, questioned the motives behind the FFP.

He called for a new politics that moved beyond the “historical wheel of 1932” which does not work and will cause more tension in society.

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