Demonstration at Thammasat calling for reform on politics and monarchy

Thousands gathered at a demonstration at Thammasat University (TU) on 10 August. which underlined the demands from the Free People Movement and called for reform of the monarchy. TU claimed they had not been informed beforehand about the speeches about the monarchy. Over 110 lecturers countrywide supported the demonstrators’ expressed views and their bravery to speak about a sensitive issue in Thailand.

A banner at the TU protest on 10 August.

The demonstration was held at the Phaya Nak field with explosive and weapon scanners deployed along with temperature screening. Many speakers invited demonstrators to join a large protest at the Democracy Monument scheduled for 16 August.

Many people from different backgrounds and origins took the stage to give speeches. Sriprai Nonsee, a representative from the Rangsit and Area Labour Union Group, spoke about the obstacles faced by the labour rights movement under the NCPO junta and the current government.

Sriprai Nonsee on a stage at TU.

Sriprai said under the junta, leading labour rights figures were monitored by the military and authorities whenever they tried to stage a rally. The Palang Pracharat Party-led government also failed to deliver their proposed policy of 400 baht per day minimum wage . The economy is just getting worse as time passes by and it affects both the new graduates and daily labourers.

Sahai Nick giving a speech.

‘Sahai Nick’ from Mahasarakham University said people have seen more political intervention by the police and military. The conservatives that mobilize protests against us are creating the conditions for a coup. The protesters here do not accept any more coups and will resist.

‘Smart’, a political science student from TU, said the authorities' harassment of protesters in many parts of the country is still going on, regardless of the student demand to stop. It seems that officers have forgotten their duties to protect the people and have decided to follow orders from their commanders.

He urged the officers to at least point their guns upward at the sky instead of at people.

Monarchy reform underlined, political refugee appears on screen

Anon while giving a speech at TU.

Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer who previously proposed monarchy reform in line with principles of democratic governance in the Harry Potter-themed protest on 3 August gave a similar speech at TU.

Anon underlined the freedom to address problems of the monarchy officially and publicly. Discussion about the monarchy should be honest with due respect to human dignity  He demanded that the power of the monarchy be limited under framework of a constitutional monarchy.

Anon also demanded a constitutional amendment to withdraw the power of the senate to nominate the prime minister by 1 September.

The senate is recognized as a key factor that allowed Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to be nominated as the PM unelected despite the fact that his political party, Palang Pracharat, won fewer seats than the Pheu Thai Party.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic in exile, sent an 8-minute-long video clip as requested by the organizers. He supported the demands about the monarchy raised by Anon.

Pavin giving a wink at the end of the video clip.

At the end of the demonstration, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, spokesperson of the Student Union of Thailand, read a declaration proposing 10 reforms of the monarchy in line with democratic principles.

[Full statement] The demonstration at Thammasat proposes monarchy reform

1. Revoke Article 6 of the 2017 Constitution that forbids any accusation against the King. And add an article to allow parliament to examine wrongdoing of the King, as was stipulated in the constitution promulgated by the People’s Party.

2. Revoke Article 112 of the Criminal Code, to allow the people to exercise freedom of expression about the monarchy and amnesty all those prosecuted for criticizing the monarchy.

3. Revoke the Crown Property Act of 2018 and make a clear division between the assets of the King under the control of the Ministry of Finance and his personal assets.

4. Reduce the amount of the national budget allocated to the King in line with the economic conditions of the country.

5. Abolish the Royal Offices. Units with a clear duty, such the Royal Security Command, should be transferred and placed under other agencies. Unnecessary units, such as the Privy Council, should be disbanded.

6. Cease all giving and receiving of donations by royal charity funds in order for all assets of the monarchy to be open to audit.

7. Cease the exercise of the royal prerogative over the expression of political opinions in public.

8. Cease all public relations and education that excessively and one-sidedly glorifies the monarchy.

9. Investigate the facts about the murders of those who criticized or had some kind of relation with the monarchy.

10. The king must not endorse any further coups.

“These demands are not a proposal to topple the monarchy. They are a good-faith proposal made for the monarchy to be able to continue to be esteemed by the people within a democracy.”

“Therefore, for the monarchy to be secure in the present-day world, it must not hold power related to politics. It should be able to be controlled, audited, and criticized and it should not be a burden on the people. Then it will be able to be held as the monarchy that is dignified in line with the universal meaning of democracy,” the declaration stated. 

Over 110 lecturers countrywide support freedom of expression including about monarchy

On 12 August, more than 110 lecturers signed their names in another statement saying that the demonstrators' expressed opinions are within the boundaries of the constitution and basic principles of universal human rights and democracy. The 10 proposals are straightforward calls to discuss a sensitive topic in Thailand. Thai society should be tolerant and speak with reason for the sustainability of democracy in our society.

“These speeches are the first in many years that has openly discussed the role and problems of the monarchy and Thai society, with proposals to amend the law and the Constitution to bring about democracy as well as ensure the status of the King in the system of democratic government with the King as Head of State.  

“These speeches are honest expressions of opinion and are within the boundary of the law, as Section 34 of the 2017 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand reads:  “a person shall enjoy the liberty to express opinions, make speeches, write, print, publicize and express by other means. The restriction of such liberty shall not be imposed, except by virtue of the provisions of law specifically enacted for the purpose of maintaining the security of the State, protecting the rights or liberties of other persons, maintaining public order or good morals, or protecting the health of the people.” This conforms to the principle of international human rights laws to which the Thai state is a signatory, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantees the freedom of expression under Article 19.

“We, the undersigned 105 academics from various universities around the country, believe that this expression is expression in line with the law, on the basic principles of the democratic system, and the ten proposals from the protesters are not in violation of criminal law related to the King. There is no statement that can be held to be defamatory, insulting, or displaying malice towards the King in any way. In fact, these proposals are straightforward proposals to guarantee the continued existence of the monarchy in a system of democracy with the King as head of state.

“Universities, as academic institutions that have an important role in promoting the pursuit of solutions for the progress of Thai society, should declare themselves a space open for the opportunity to express one’s opinion, particularly on issues related to the public good which should be brought up, analyzed, and debated in public to resolve problems of the country, not to avoid or stifling the liberty to express those problems. Not only that, universities should display and aid Thai society to face these challenging problems with tolerance, an extremely important characteristic of a democratic society.

“Even if there are many opinions that we are not happy with, as long as those opinions do not incite violence in society, accepting differences and opening a space for discussion is the solution that a civilized society must choose. Condemning different opinions as a transgression or an insult does not make our society grow intellectually, and all discourse and debate will be devalued as merely offensive thoughts”

Thammasat University apologizes for speeches about the monarchy

On 11 August, Thammasat University issued a statement apologizing for the demonstrators’ infringement upon the monarchy and the Thai people's feelings. It stated that any speaker that may have violated the law by their speech would have to take responsibilityon their own. 

The statement said that the University allowed the demonstratosr to use its space to express their demands for constitutional amendments, dissolution of parliament and for the state to stop harassing people. The university acknowledged the speeches exceeded the agreed terms and would proceed with further measures under their responsibility.

The university also stated that it would try not to let the incident happen again. It will tighten the conditions for using university space to organize activities and will not allow any organization that may violate the law.

Source: 
https://prachatai.com/journal/2020/08/88977