No anti-coup student activists show up at junta’s reform forum

No anti-coup student activist participated in the junta’s national reform forum organized to collect students’ opinions on reform; they say that they do not want to be part of the apparatus of the military government.  

None of the student activists engaged in anti-junta activities participated in ‘Uniting the Force of Students for National Reform’, held from 19-21 December. This forum, which was organized by the junta’s Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) and the National Reform Council (NRC), was designed specifically for students, Matichon Online reported on Sunday.

According to the invitation letter sent to universities, the forum is meant to allow students to voice opinions on the direction of the national reform policies of the junta.

Despite the junta’s gesture of openness, anti-coup student activists criticised the forum as merely a superficial attempt by the junta to improve its public image while still maintaining martial law to silence political dissent.

“Even though we were invited to join the forum, I think the forum is only the junta’s attempt to improve its own image. If the junta really wants to listen to opinions from students on the national reform policies why don’t they lift martial law and why are student activists still being intimidated regularly,” said Nattanan Warintarawet, Secretary-General of the Education for Liberation of Siam (ELS), a student association comprised mostly of high school students who oppose the junta’s education reform based on a morality stipulated by the so called 12 Thai values.

“Apart from this we also don’t want to be a part of the junta’s political apparatus. We don’t want to legitimize the regime, which is far from being legitimate,” added Nattanan, who is still in Grade 11.

In late October, Nattanan revealed that the military had phoned the director of Triam Udom Suksa school in central Bangkok, where she is studying, to ask about her and ELS activists in a bid to intimidate her.

Another student activist from Thai Student Centre for Democracy, Natchacha Kongudom, who in late November made headlines after she was arrested for raising the three-finger salute at the ‘Hunger Games 3’ premiere, said, “The junta is only inviting those who are believed to be in line with their regime; I and other students who have voiced criticisms against the junta before were of course not invited to participate in the forum, so I think the forum is somewhat useless”.

In early December, Natchacha was threatened with rape by what are thought to be plainclothes military officers assigned to follow and watch her at an event organized by National Human Rights Commission.

Similar to the experienced of Nattanan and Natchacha, up in the northeastern region, the Dao Din student activist group from Khon Kaen University, five members of which were arrested for giving the junta leader the anti-coup three-fingered salute last month, have reported regular intimidation and harassment by the local security forces.

Despite this obvious hypocrisy of the junta, however, Tawinwadee Bureekul, a CDC member, stated that the CDC will organize similar forums in all major regions countrywide to allow people to voice opinions on national reform.   in all major regions countrywide to allow people to voice opinions on the national reform.