Yielding to Pressure

 Much has been made of the decision announced by Dr. Somkit Lertpaithoon, Rector of Thammasat University, on his FaceBook page that the Nitirat group was banned from using university premises for their campaign to amend Article 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse majesté law). As with other contentious decisions in Thai politics the rationale given for the decision is perhaps deliberately opaque.

One reason the Rector gave was that he feared use of university facilities might lead members of the public to believe that Thammasat as an institution was in support of the Nitirat campaign.

Blatant hogwash.

First of all, it implies that Thammasat has an abysmally low opinion of the common sense of the average Thai. If each and every Nitirat event was prefaced with a statement to the effect that the opinions expressed were not necessarily those of the university, then there’s only a problem if the audience is too thick, too prejudiced or too asleep to understand. Is that all you get at Thammasat events?

And in any case, Thammasat hosted all those PAD meetings and PAD’s attitude toward the Nitirat proposals have been little short of bloodthirsty. If you let both sides speak on campus, where’s the bias?

No, the more cogent reason is the second one given by Rector Somkit. If more Nitirat meetings were arranged, there is the danger of violence and we have all been urged by many voices, including the one from the Very Top, to preserve national unity. Giving the lunatic fringe an excuse for another 6th October would not achieve that goal.

This again reflects badly on Thai society, assuming as it does that the only way of resolving differences of opinion resembles the one favoured in Egyptian football matches. But it seems to have struck a chord in the Thammasat community.

Somchai Sobmaidai, a first-year student in Media Studies, has successfully petitioned the university authorities to cancel this term’s final examinations. He claimed that he and his friends were almost certain to fail Cartoons 101 and he couldn’t vouch for his friends’ behaviour should this happen.

According to Somchai, students who expected a failing grade were getting ready to fire-bomb the acharn’s office, stage a noisy public protest at the university gates and hack into the university website and leave obscene messages. Probably misspelled.

Student Somchai argued that giving students different grades, especially F’s, created division in the university body and did nothing to foster the national unity that we should all strive for. After consulting with the university authorities, the Faculty Dean cancelled the exams to avoid violence and disunity.

Protests by the teacher in charge of the course and the majority of students who had done the coursework and expected a decent grade were overruled. ‘Students must learn that there is a time and place for everything, and that includes giving in to threats and intimidation,’ said a representative of the Rector’s office. ‘This is an important part of Thai education.’

The university administration was then asked to look at the planned elections for the Student Council. The Front for Appropriate, Suitable and Correct Ideas among Students at Thammasat, a party with a platform based on the right to suppress inappropriate expression, argued that if they did not win the election (as seemed almost certain given that they had almost no support), they could not be held responsible for any violence that ensued.

They also argued that elections, requiring parties to put forward different and sometimes contradictory proposals, only confused students and if, in their confusion, students voted for different parties, disunity would result. This went against the basic aims of higher education in Thailand.

The university agreed. In the face of widespread protests, the university issued a statement that elections were not always necessary for a democracy. ‘Democracy means having good people in charge. If an election can do this, then we should hold an election. But often it is better for a democracy to choose its leaders by some other means. This is the most appropriate form of Thai democracy.’

Comments

You've changed your writing

You've changed your writing style to discursive writing. That's my favourite of all the different writing styles. Did you enjoy writing this article Harrison?

If more Nitirat meetings were

If more Nitirat meetings were arranged, there is the danger of violence...

I think you've missed the message here HG. All talk of violence has been from state functionaries and those egged on by state functionaries in blind opposition to the Nitirat... not their proposals for they haven't read them.

The clear text of the rector's messge is...

If more Nitirat meetings were arranged, violence will be our only recourse... once again.

..and the rector's a real mensch... he's saving the Nitirat, Thammasat students, and the Thai people at large from murder and mayhem, for everyone knows that the Royal Thai Army and the Royal Thai Police are fully capable of... indeed exist solely to rain down... murder and mayhem upon the Thai people.

So the rector is really doing everyone a favor, according to his lights, in suppressing discussion and debate, in debasing his institution.

He should instead be explicitly citing 6 October, championing the Nitirat and those who come to discuss and debate its proposals, and demanding that those in uniform protect and serve those involved in such discussions and debate rather than brutally to murder them. Again.

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

The rector of Thammasat seems to have lost his venture, his remaining life to be bound in shallows and miseries. But that's why he gets the Big Baht... in recompense.

The present rector may be a

The present rector may be a sorry case, sadly lacking in courage, but there are some honorable and courageous people at Thammasat University who remember Puey Ungpakorn and 6 October and who are not going to let all of the past sacrifices of brave, honorable officials and students like themselves go for naught...

Section 112 amendment drive continues

The committee campaigning for the amendment of Section 112 of the Criminal Code on Sunday declared to continue with its drive by expanding its activities to various localities to promote understanding with the people and win their support.

Yukti Mukdawijitr, a lecturer of the faculty of social administration of Thammasat University representing the committee, said although many people have voiced disagreement to amending the lese majeste law and the issue has become a controversy in society, the committee would continue with its campaign.

The committee planned to set up campaigning networks and organise activities in various localities to hunt for signatures of people supporting the amendment.

He said Section 112 of the Criminal Code curtailed the people's fundamental rights under the constitution and was against a democratic system under the monarchy.

Mr Yukti said the committee was open to opposing opinions. "Intimidation of us in any form would be against the law because signing in support of an amendment to a law is a constitutional right," he added.

Khan Thoop, Panitan, Yukti, his fellow committee members, and all the students and faculty at Thammasat who have summoned their courage and are doing the right thing deserve the thanks and encouragement of the wholesome majority of ordinary Thais. That of the self-selected, 'True-Thai elite' minority will not be forthcoming, but will hardly be missed.

The first time through I quit

The first time through I quit reading after the four paragraphs beginning with 'Somchai'... I thought HG'd taken the easy way out, turning to sophomoric slapstick.

But rereading again now I find the last three paragraphs do indeed deliver the goods, and recommend them to anyone put off earlier as I was.

To HG I'd recommend simply cutting the four paragraphs beginning 'Somchai'. Doing so would allow this piece to rise to the level at which it deserves to be considered.

No pressure though. I know you're not a man who yields to pressure.

Unusually, a member of the

Unusually, a member of the faculty of Chulalongkorn has stood up to face down Prayuth and the Royal Thai Army...

Activists defy army chief

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Puangthong Rungswasdisab is cited as saying the signature campaign in support of amending the lese majeste law is continuing until 5 May.

Puangthong stated that “the army chief may not have studied the details of the proposed amendments before criticising advocates for change.”

Defiantly, she asks: “What authority will the army chief invoke to stop us? Does the army think its major duty is to stage a coup to protect the institution [of the monarchy]? The army no longer has legitimacy to stage coups…”.

And she adds: “We don’t think we are posing a threat to the institution [of the monarchy]…”.

... good for Ajarn Puangthong!

Let us all get behind this movement and give it maximum support!