Football Parade Organizers Rebuff Army's Censorship Request

Activists unfurl a banner calling for the release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a magazine editor jailed for allegedly insulting the Thai monarchy, during the Chulalongkorn - Thammasat annual football match on 2 Feb 2013.

BANGKOK — Organizers of Thammasat University's annual football parade have snubbed the Thai army's request to cancel the parade because of its political nature.

Per tradition, Thammasat University students kick off their annual football match against Chulalongkorn University with a parade featuring commentary on contemporary politics.

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A parade float took a jab at then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who Thai press call the 'Red Crab,' at the annual Chulalongkorn – Thammasat football match on 25 Feb 2012.

According to a report on Isra News, the Second Cavalry Division “requested” that Thammasat cancel this year’s parade, scheduled for 7 February.

Weerachai Pongkaew, a spokesperson of the unit, told Isra that the order was sent in accordance with the junta’s policy to ask all sides for “cooperation” in keeping politics out of the public eye.

"We have dispatched senior [officers] to talk with the organizers," Col. Weerachai told Isra

Since staging the coup against the elected government on 22 May 2014, the military junta has outlawed public protests and political activities of any kind. The junta has canceled a number of academic seminars on political issues, including a forum on press freedom last month.

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Activists unfurl a banner calling for the release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a magazine editor jailed for allegedly insulting the Thai monarchy, during the Chulalongkorn – Thammasat annual football match on 2 Feb 2013. 

Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, the deputy dean of Thammasat, toldMatichon that he received the military's "request for cooperation," but said the university administration has decided to go ahead with parade as planned.

"The mocking of politics is an activity we hold every year. It is an opportunity for the students to express their opinion," said Prinya. "So we have agreed to let the activity go ahead. However, as for concerns expressed by certain groups, we will consider the details of each activity based on what is appropriate."

Kanathip Kaikaew, the Thammasat student who is organizing card stunts for the event, said he has not personally received any orders from the military, but insisted that the parade and card stunts are friendly activities.

"It adds color to the event and promotes friendship between the two universities," Kanathip said in an interview with Matichon, "The card stunt will proceed as normal. There won't be any self-censorship."

The student in charge of organizing the parade also confirmed toMatichon that the march will proceed as planned.

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A parade float that accused the US of "robbing" the Asia-Pacific region with its perceived unfair trade treaties, 2 Feb 2013. 

Maj.Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a spokesperson of the Thai military government, said he is not aware of the military's request to cancel tomorrow's football parade, but added that the event's organizers should be aware of how their actions may be perceived.

"The activity can be seen in many ways. It is about rights, freedom, and tradition. There's nothing [wrong] with that," Maj.Gen. Sansern said. "However, all contexts have to be considered. The organizers may not think that their activities will damage the country, but some other groups may use them in political ways."

Thammsat University has been regarded as a bastion for progressive movements throughout much of Thailand's political history. However, the university's administration has come under fire in recent years for its perceived collaboration with Thailand’s conservative factions. The current rector, Somkit Lertpaithoon, was recently targeted by Thammasat student activists for his support of the 22 May coup that toppled the elected government, and for joining the junta’s interim parliament. 

 

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