Unis told to stop students' slurs

Unis told to stop students' slurs

Anti-government protest momentum on rise but anti-monarchy talk worries Anek

Chulalongkorn University students go ahead with their anti-government rally on campus yesterday, despite the institution prohibiting the use of its premises for political activities. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Chulalongkorn University students go ahead with their anti-government rally on campus yesterday, despite the institution prohibiting the use of its premises for political activities. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Executives of universities nationwide have been urged by a cabinet minister to do all they can to prevent student protesters from insulting the monarchy.

Speaking at a meeting with executives of universities on Friday, newly appointed Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister Anek Laothamatas said that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed concern over student rallies where protesters have made offensive comments about the monarchy, particularly the demonstration at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus on Monday.

Student activists have hit the streets in recent weeks, demanding the resignation of Gen Prayut's cabinet, the dissolution of parliament and the drafting of a new constitution. At Monday's rally, students expanded their demands to include reforms of the monarchy.

The comments made during the Monday rally have upset many Thais, even though the prime minister does not want any violent incidents to occur, Mr Anek said.

He said that the government was not trying to quell rallies, and did not mind people expressing their political views, though they must not insult the monarchy.

Universities must be strict with their students in this respect and they must take responsibility if they fail to act, Mr Anek said.

"Teachers must explain to their students how important the monarchy is. Thailand has a constitutional monarchy. We must work together to prevent students and outsiders from insulting the monarchy. You can't afford to turn a blind eye,'' Mr Anek said.

Those present at the meeting included the presidents of Chulalongkorn University, Kasetsart University, Thammasat University, Chiang Mai University, Khon Kaen University, and Silpakorn University.

In a related development, the Criminal Court summoned human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and student activist Panupong Chadnok to appear on Sept 3 for a hearing after a police request for the court to withdraw bail granted to the pair.

They were arrested on Aug 8 and charged with sedition after taking part in an anti-government rally at the Democracy Monument on July 18. They were released on bail on the condition that they must not repeat the offences they are accused of.

After his release, Mr Arnon travelled to Chiang Mai to speak at a rally. He and Mr Panupong also spoke at the rally at Thammasat's Rangsit campus on Monday.

Mr Arnon took to Facebookon Friday, giving moral support to other activists involved in the student rallies.

"In this political battle, everyone must be feeling under pressure... I wish you the morale and determination to fight on," he wrote.

Meanwhile, police on Friday arrested Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, a Thammasat University student and a leader of the Free Youth Group, at Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi's Pak Kret district over his role in a rally in front of the Royal Thai Army headquarters on July 20. He was nabbed while on his way to an anti-government rally near a pier in Nonthaburi before being taken for questioning at Samran Rat police station.

A group of Chulalongkorn University students calling itself Spring Movement held a rally in the compound of the university despite a ban from the university management.

A group of students at Mahidol University's Salaya campus has also vowed to go ahead with their anti-government gathering on the campus next Tuesday despite the university not giving them permission.

A group of 14 law lecturers at Chulalongkorn University on Friday issued a statement opposing the university's ban on student rallies, saying they support student activities that comply with the law.

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