Call to resist pressure, allow rallies

Call to resist pressure, allow rallies

Democracy activists 'need to be heard'

Students take part in an anti-government rally at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus, where they also demanded charter change, on Monday. Apichit Jinakul
Students take part in an anti-government rally at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus, where they also demanded charter change, on Monday. Apichit Jinakul

Pro-democracy advocates on Wednesday called on education institutes to allow on-campus rallies as pressure grows on them to prohibit "risky" political activities.

Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the opposition Move Forward Party, posted on Facebook that safe places for students to air their views were diminishing and that youngsters "should be allowed to carry out activities there".

His remark came after Thammasat University pledged to prevent a recurrence of Monday's rally at its Rangsit campus where comments made by protesters potentially violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code.

The students also expanded their demand to include reform of the country's highest institution, sparking fears that it could trigger violent confrontations between the royalist movement and its opponents.

Mr Pita said confrontations would not take place and the student activism would not culminate in a bloody crackdown like the Oct 6, 1976 incident if those in power exercise restraint and do not resort to a crackdown.

"By refusing to hear them and dismissing their voice as a threat to security, the nation and the institution, means we are not actually listening to them. [The prime minister] promised to listen but [authorities] continued to harass them and make arrests. We're killing the future with our own hands," he said.

He described the students' expanded demand as an "inconvenient truth".

Chaturon Chaisang, former chief strategist of the defunct Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) Party, posted on Facebook that the public should remind authorities that the use of violence would only deepen the political crisis.

He said the government should listen to the students and encourage talks while pointing out the government and the House of Representatives are on the right track by agreeing to a charter rewrite push.

However, he said they must be sincere in the charter rewrite push and make the charter amendment timely.

Their views were echoed by former Democrat candidate Parit Wacharasindhu who called on all parties not to gag students and to create and protect safe space for them even though they had differing views.

Defence Ministry spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said security authorities were concerned about some of the students' demands which could lead to violent confrontation and sow divisions.

He said all parties should keep their emotions in check and exercise restraint so they will not become a political tool of any group.

Navy chief Luechai Ruddit on Wednesday urged the public not to treat youngsters as enemies even though they have different opinions and suggested a dialogue should be encouraged to sort out differences.

Meanwhile, Thammasat University's student organisation insisted the Monday rally was not against the law and it had a good intentions toward the country.

It also said university executives should not bow to public pressure and should adhere to the principles of democracy.

A total of 105 lecturers from various universities on Wednesday signed to support the students' 10-point demand for the reform of the monarchy institution and called on the public to face the challenge with patience and reasons.

Historian and academic Nidhi Eoseewong told BBC Thai that the students' demand was "beyond the ceiling" and those in parliament were unlikely to come aboard.

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