Claiming Students' Mandate, Universities Join Protests

(7 November) The leadership of some of Thailand′s leading universities have joined the ongoing anti-government protests on behalf of their universities.

The first establishment to ?blow the whistle? – a term used by critics of the government-sponsored Amnesty Bill to signify their protests – was the elite Chulalongkorn University. Thousands of its students, academics, and alumni marched to the heart of Bangkok′s commercial downtown earlier this week to show their strength against the government′s effort to push for a sweeping amnesty deal.

The protests were organised under the official endorsement of the university′s directors and deans.
 
Similarly, the directors of Thammasat University today organised a large rally involving its students, lecturers, and alumni at its Tha Prachan Campus before setting off on a demonstration to the nearby Democracy Monument, briefly merging with another group of anti-government protesters headed by the opposition Democrat Party who had been camping there for days.
 
At the start of the rally, Mr. Boonsom Akkarathammakul, an alumni of Thammasat who also served as a member of its student council in 1981, read the statement on behalf of the university that the government has "stigmatized" the function of Thai Parliament by stealthily revising the original amnesty into a version that would benefit former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
 
"They have lied for many times," Mr. Boonsom said, reading from the statement, "They claim to build reconciliation, but they only aim to score a political victory".
 
Although Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has said the government will no longer pursue the controversial amnesty bill, the statement notes, the people have become so distrustful of the government that they will not take her words for granted.
 
The statement ends with a threatening note, warning the government that the people have the rights to overthrow it if it dishonours mandate given by the people.
 
A stone′s throw away from Thammasat University, Silpakorn University has likewise endorsed a campaign against the amnesty plan. Its staff has set up tables collecting signatures from the students and lecturers to denounce the ?amnesty for all?.
 
Mahidol University and Rangsit University have also announced a day-off for their students, encouraging them to join the protests against the ?blanket amnesty?. 
 
It should be noted that leading figures of Thammasat University and Rangsit University have been longtime critics of Mr. Thaksin and have publicly spoken out against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck.
 
Furthermore, at the scene of the demonstration held by Chulalongkorn University,the overwhelming majority of banners, signs, and placards held by the protesters virtually focused solely on the issues of Mr. Thaksin′s potential return from exile and absolution of his corruption charges, leaving out the issue of the 2010 military crackdown which has killed over 90 people, our correspondent reported. 
 
The rallies sponsored by Thammasat University also experienced such glaring absence of reference to 2010 crackdown, although a small group of students held signs demanding that the authorities responsible for the operation be held accountable.
 
The fact that the 2010 crackdown are not featured by these protests is particularly intriguing, as the former government who authorised the crackdown will also receive the amnesty under the plan. 
 
None of the aforementioned universities participating in the protests has conducted a referendum of their students? opinions concerning the amnesty prior to launching the rallies on their behalf, our correspondent added.
 

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