The Rector of Thammasat University (TU) has been condemned by a group of TU lecturers who claim his order to close down the university for 3 days was unreasonable. The order was said to show support for the anti-government group who had called for a strike by the public sector to cripple the government.
The group of lecturers, composed of members of the Nitirat (Enlightened Jurists) group, anthropologist Yukti Mukdawijitra and political scientist Prajak Kongkirati, said in a public lecture on Tuesday that the decision of Rector Somkid Lertpaitoon was made without any democratic consultation within the community and was believed to be motivated by a political agenda.
The public lecture was held in defiance of the shutdown order at the University’s Rangsit campus in central Pathum Thani Province. About a hundred of students attended the ‘lecture’. Some students said that the order, effective from 2 to 4 December on its campuses in the capital, Pathum Thani, Chonburi Province in the east, and Lampang Province in the north, severely affected examination schedules.
Prajak said the reason for the closure is understandable only at Thammasat’s Tha Prachan campus in Bangkok, which is only a few hundred yards from one of the protest sites, but is not understandable for the Rangsit campus.
“The order to close down all the University campuses for many days can be questioned. Is this to support the protest led by Suthep, since aside from the universities, no other government agencies have closed down their operations? The rector must answer whether there is any motive behind the university shutdown,” said the political scientist.
The demonstrators, led by former number two of the pro-establishment of Democrat Party Suthep Thaugsuban, aim to overthrow the elected government, led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but it is also an open secret that Thaksin is the de facto leader of the government.
The demonstrators’ goal is to rid Thai politics of Thaksin. The strategy of the protesters was to cripple the government by obstructing the work of civil servants through the seizure of state agency compounds. Apart from the seizures, they called for a nationwide civil service strike.
Worachet Pakeerut, a leading Nitirat member, said the Rector’s order, which shortly followed the anti-government’s call for a nationwide strike, made it seem like the university supported the demonstration.
Somkid earlier gave a press interview on the call by the Council of University Presidents of Thailand, a network of 27 university rectors of which he is the president, for the dissolution of parliament. A ‘national government’ with an appointed Prime Minister would be then established to ‘run the country towards a better way’, Somkid said, according to local media reports.
This highly controversial idea, echoing the anti-government protests, was obviously impossible under the current Constitution, said Piyabutr Sangkanokkul, Thammasat law lecturer, adding that if the government resigns or parliament is dissolved, the Prime Minister and the cabinet must still take acting status until the new government replaces them.
He also criticized Somkid’s role in giving public opinions which could lead the public to think that the University is leaning towards support for the cause of the anti-government protests.
“When Nitirat issued statements on political issues, we were condemned for exploiting Thammasat University’s name and reputation. But when the Rector wants to push his own political agenda, he claims the whole University supports it,” said Piyabutr.
Nitirat has proposed several controversial legal opinions and amendments, such as an amendment of the lèse majesté law, and an amnesty for political prisoners to resolve Thailand’s political crisis.
In the evening a group of about 40 students, led by the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy, organized a “no-confidence motion debate” against their Rector at the Rangsit campus.