The winners and losers from this week’s student protests

Anti-government protests continued all week on college campuses across the country as students called for the Prayut Chan-ocha government to step down.

Rallies started after the dissolution of the Future Forward Party last Friday by the Constitutional Court, a decision that the students say was an abuse of power and politically influenced by the government.

We take a look back at the last week and pick out the winners and losers from the protests.

WINNERS

Students from Khon Kaen University

The kids at Khon Kaen University held a rally despite efforts by the faculty to stop large-scale demonstrations. They carried similar signs and posters to the rest of the country, they held similar speeches and called for the government to step down just like everyone else.

Why they top our winners list is because they were the only group that seemed to be having a hell of a good time doing it. They also cleaned up after themselves.

The high school students from Satriwithaya

Nevermind that the kids are at one of the country’s most conservative all-girls school, nevermind that they’re only 14-18, or that the administrators had closed the school gates to stop them from protesting on campus.

It doesn’t matter because they wanted to show their support for democracy and against the Prayut government. And if the school wasn’t going to let them, then they were going to march across the street from the school to protest right in front of the Democracy Monument.

Hashtags

Over the last week, Thai universities used hashtags and social media to organise their rallies with large turnouts at multiple campuses. This is not new or unique, it has been done in the West and in the Middle East. What is completely Thai about the hashtags was often how humourous they were, poking fun not just at their school traditions but the authorities as well.

For example, Khon Kaen’s University’s tag was:

#KKUขอโทษที่ช้าโดนสลิ่มลบโพสต์, which translates to ‘Khon Kaen University apologises for being slow, our post was deleted by salim.’ (Salim is a slang for conservative Thais who are pro-establishment. It is also a popular dessert. More on this later).

Kasetsart University’s was:

#KUไม่ใช่ขนมหวานราดกะทิ, which translates to ‘Kasetsart University is not a dessert covered with coconut milk’ (a physical description of salim).

Thammasat University’s was:

#ที่ยุบอนาคตใหม่พี่มหาลัยกูทั้งนั้น, which translates to ‘when they dissolved Future Forward, those were all my upperclassmen’ playing to the perception that the university is a bastion of liberal and pro-democracy thought.’

There were a million more, each humourous and each worthy of praise.

The students
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter where the students were protesting because this is the largest political movement inside the campuses since the 1970s. Long accused of being apolitical and muzzled, the students have come out in a big way to make sure their voices are heard and are on their way to becoming a political force again.

It remains to be seen whether they can organise among themselves and across campuses because a higher degree of coordination will be needed to take on the government and the conservative establishment.

LOSERS

Officer Buzzkill

This cop trying to harass students for their ID cards to register them and censor their banners:

Conservative faculties at various universities and high schools

Being a conservative society and aware of the optics surrounding large-scale protests, several institutions around the country tried to stop the protests from occurring. Whether it was telling the students to go home because of coronavirus like Triam Udom Suksa school, or outright banning any protests like Satriwithaya, these faculties do both themselves and the notion of higher knowledge a disservice from their stance.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha

The ultimate target of the protester’s ire, the prime minister couldn’t resist making a comment on the issue.

His comment?

“They should listen to many sources of information to understand how a nation must progress. The most important thing is the law.”

Inspiring stuff.

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