Protest at Thammasat U. calls for change through election

A protest took place at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on Wednesday (10 August), restating the 3 demands of the 2020 pro-democracy protests and calling on people to bring about change through the next general election.

People gathering for the protest at Thammasat University's Rungsit campus on 10 August (Photo by Siriyada Limsuwat)

Organized by the Thammasat University Student Council and the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), the protest took place on the 2nd anniversary of the 10 August 2020 protest, during which the UFTD first announced their 10-point demand for monarchy reform.

While activists and students took turns giving speeches on the main stage, other groups set up protest signs around the area, including a group of students raising awareness about sexual harassment on campus. They conducted polls on whether people feel safe from sexual harassment within the pro-democracy movement, and whether people have been sexually harassed by someone in the university.

A banner at the protest says "a male lecturer is a sexual exploiter" (Photo by Siriyada Limsuwat)

The students also put up a sign saying that “a male lecturer is a sexual exploiter.” Bee (pseudonym) said that the sign is meant to call for justice for victims of sexual harassment, as a male lecturer in the university has been accused of sexual exploitation against both students and colleagues but is still teaching in the university and is not facing consequences. Bee said that students have spoken out against him, but were threatened with lawsuits.

Meanwhile, the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution set up a table where people can place sandalwood flowers in front of a picture of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to raise questions about whether his term should end on 24 August 2022, since the 2017 Constitution allows a Prime Minister to be in office only for 8 years. Gen Prayut was first appointed Prime Minister on 24 August 2014, before being elected by parliament to stay in his position following the 2019 general election.

The Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution's activity (Photo by Siriyada Limsuwat)

Several activists joined the protest, among them Chonticha Jaengrew, now slated to run in the next general election as an MP candidate for the Move Forward Party. Chonticha said that, even though the monarchy and the government did not listen to or act on the 10 demands for monarchy reform, she thinks that the past 2 years of protest were not for nothing as the Thai people have begun raising questions about the monarchy, such as the budget allocated to the royal family, and people are beginning to agree with the demands, such as the campaign for the repeal of the royal defamation law.

Chonticha noted that the authorities are enforcing laws more strictly, especially the royal defamation law, which she said is being used strategically to limit freedom of expression and to stop the movement of civil society. Because of this, she said one needs to question the role of judges in society, as activists who are granted bail are being given conditions that restrict their role in the movement for monarchy reform. They are required to wear a monitoring device or are prohibited from participating in activities which could damage the monarchy or the court, which goes against the principle of presumption of innocence and violates freedom of expression.

Chonticha Jaengrew

Chonticha, who also has to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, said she is consulting with her lawyer to file a complaint with the Ministry of Justice on discrimination against political activists, since the Ministry has a policy that a person can agree to wear a monitoring device instead of cash bonds when granted bail, but she and other activists are being required to wear monitoring devices despite placing cash bonds, showing that monitoring devices are being enforced upon activists to cause difficulties in living normal lives.

“The courts are not acting as custodians of the law, but have become actors in today’s conflicts in our politics and society,” she said.

Chonticha also noted that the courts do not consider evidence during royal defamation trials, which limits the defendants’ ability to defend themselves and prove that their opinions are in good faith and for the good of the country in accordance with their constitutional rights.

Students and activists flashing the three-finger salute after reading out their statement (Photo by Siriyada Limsuwat)

Towards the end of the protest, student activists came on stage to read a statement saying that, throughout the past 2 years, many changes have happened, but there are things that have not changed. They therefore organized the protest to once again restate the 3 demands of the 2020 pro-democracy protest, which are that Gen Prayut and his allies must immediately resign, a new Constitution must be drafted, and the monarchy must be reformed to come under the Constitution and in accordance with democratic principles.

“Change in a democratic society is not something that can happen overnight, and even though there are some things that the movement has not been able to achieve, today we ask you all to think back to this day 2 years ago, 10 August 2010. In only 2 years, Thai political society is not the same anymore,” said the statement.

“Change today is something that has happened and can never be turned back. All powers in society have been questioned, from the powers closest to us to the powers that have never been spoken about before, or even the powers that have not previously been seen as a problem. Today, many people are joining the call and are dreaming of a better politics. We insist that the Thai society and politics today is not the same anymore.”

A protester held a sign calling for the authorities to drop charges against activists (Photo by Siriyada Limsuwat)

The students then called on people to participate in the upcoming general election and to see it as a gateway to political change. They invited people to see the election as a way of showing the number of pro-democracy people, and to use it as a way of changing Thai politics and paving the way towards reform.

“This election is not the end of the fight, but it is the beginning. It is the first milestone that those of us who stand by democracy must win so that our expectation of creating a democratic society in which every person has rights, freedom, and equality can come true in this country,” said the students.

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