Student leaders told Thai Enquirer on Wednesday that they were unconcerned with political parties urging caution after a controversial rally on Monday which touched upon previously taboo topics in Thai society.
Up to 10,000 students gathered on campus at Thammasat University – Rangsit on Monday to call for a change in government with many students saying that the Prayut Chan-ocha administration was undemocratic.
The students called for a rewrite of the military-drafted constitution, the dissolution of parliament and the end to the harassment of activists by the state. As the rallied continued, many speakers also touched on the role of the Thai monarchy in politics.
Politicians on Tuesday cautioned the students about involving the royal institution and urged the students to keep their criticisms of the government within the realm of politics.
Korn Chatikavanij, leader of the Kla Party, said that he did not want to see history repeating itself and advised the students to, “avoid insults towards the institution and conduct rallies within the boundary of the law.”
Korn was alluding to the October 6, 1976 student massacre where royalist mobs and the army crushed student rallies and lynched many students in public squares. The Kla leader said a political rally is a civil right but the respect for other’s right to belief is also another civil right.
“We respect differences of ideas and we must not violate each other rights,” he said.
He said the use of the monarchy institution to incite conflict will only lead to violence and that Thai society had already seen enough political violence over the past two decades.
Patcharin Samsiripong, a Palang Pracharath Party spokeswoman, told reporters that the students were creating a “rift” in Thai society and that such rhetoric could lead to violence and instability. Members from the ruling party have called for police investigations into the student’s conduct and the arrest of all who had broken the country’s lese majeste law.
The opposition, meanwhile, were non-committal with Pheu Thai Chief Strategist Sudarat Keyuraphan telling reporters that she wanted Thailand to still be a constitutional monarchy.
Despite many senior politicians urging caution for the students, with the ruling-party openly calling for their arrest, student-leaders told Thai Enquirer that they would proceed ahead and that such criticism was ‘to be expected.’
“They (PPRP) have used the security forces to arrest our leaders, issue arrest warrants against thirty student organizers, why should we listen to anything they say,” said one student protest leader in Ubol Ratchathani who asked not to be named.
“They are the problem, they are why we are protesting,” the student said.
Other student leaders spoken to by Thai Enquirer echoed the sentiments and said that protests would continue without inhibition despite the warnings. A major rally is scheduled for August 16 at Democracy Monument with campus protests happening before and after the rally on the 16th.