Thai Army TV bans student activist after she asks about coup

Thai Army TV banned a student activist from a talk programme after she raised questions about the legitimacy of the May 2014 coup d’état with a member of the junta’s appointed National Reform Council.

Staff of the program called ‘Investigating Hot Issues’ on the Army’s Channel 5 on Friday told Nattanan Warintarawet (aka Nice), an outspoken anti-coup student activist from Triam Udom Suksa and the Secretary-General of Education for Liberation of Siam (ELS), to leave the studio shortly before the programme was taped, according to Nattanan. 

Since the coup, Nattanan and the ELS have become well-known after the group held an activity against the junta’s education reform based on the controversial 12 traditional Thai values. Last year, Nattanan was intimidated by the military, who reportedly called the Director of her school to ask about her whereabouts and activities. However, Nattanan and other ELS members decided to continue with the group’s activities.

On the occasion of Children’s Day on Saturday, Nattanan and another student were invited to represent Thai youth in a discussion with Tienchay Kirananda, the President of the National Reform Council (NRC).

Nattanan Warintarawet (second right), along with the Education for Liberation of Siam (ELS) members, reads statement against the nationalistic 12-Thai values in front of the Ministry of Education last year.

A few minutes before the programme was taped, Nattanan asked Tienchay “How can the NRC solve the corruption problem, when the way it came to power was through stealing the votes from the people, which in my view is a kind of power corruption that is no better than financial corruption?” and “Do they [NRC members] think that the illegitimate method by which they obtained power is a form of corruption?”

“Don’t stick to principles too much, [we] must look for the future of the country,” Nattanan quoted the NRC President as saying.

Her questions stunned the programme staff who later told her to leave. “We invited the wrong person,” a staff member simply said.  

In response to the incident, Nattanan issued a statement on her Facebook profile on Friday to question the NRC and the junta’s government’s reform efforts.

The questions in Nattanan’s statement are: “Didn’t the NRC say they were open to different ideas?”, “Didn’t the NRC say that they were neutral? If so, what does the action [Nattanan’s removal from the TV program] imply?”, and “What are the real purposes of organizing these kinds of forums?”

The student activist leader also mentioned that freedom of thought must exist in this society because if it does not exist, then there is no future for this society.