Thammasat Academics Defy Rector's Closure Order

Student activists mockingly placed a sign over lecture hall to announce that the aim of Thammasat University is to serve Democrat Party, which is leading the ongoing anti-government protests

(3 December) A group of prominent academics have hosted their own lecture session in the Rangsit Campus of Thammasat University in defiance of its rector′s instruction to close down the university.

The rector of Thammasat, Mr. Somkid Lertpaitoon, has previously announced the closure of Thammasat campuses from 2-4 December, citing security concerns over the escalating anti-government protests in Bangkok.

But a group of dissenting lecturers in Thammasat view the instruction as the cooperation with anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who has called for a nationwide strike by bureaucrats and closure of all universities to pressure the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra into resigning. 
 
Known as ?Nitirart? or ?The Enlightened Jurists?, the academics have in the past campaigned for a more liberal change to Thai political system, such as the amendment of the draconic lese majeste laws, and spoken out against Mr. Somkid′s alleged conspiracy with anti-government factions.
 
Members of the Nitirart group, such as Mr. Worachet Pakeerut, Ms. Yukti Mukdawijitra, and Mr. Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, told the crowd of students who gathered to hear their lectures at Social Sciences lecturer hall that Mr. Somkid′s order to close down the university is unacceptable as it leads to impression that Thammsat University has taken a side in the political crisis.
 
The academics have advertised their out-of-classroom lecture as a special session to teach the students about democratic system contrasted to the one propagated by the anti-government protest leadership, which called itself the People′s Committee For Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD).
 
Many Thammasat students attended the session.
 
During the lecture, Mr. Piyabutr criticised Mr. Somkid′s suggestion that Ms. Yingluck should resign and appoint an unelected Prime Minister to take charge of the country. 
 
Mr. Piyabutr, a law lecturer, said the suggestion is completely unconstitutional because the 2007 Constitution does not allow the possibility of an unelected Prime Minister, according to report from Prachatai.
 
Prachatai also quoted another Nitirart member, Mr. Worachet, as saying that the PCAD′s demand of a "People′s Council" to be established is likewise impossible under the current constitution. The constitution recognised the people′s participation via electing the MPs, the Senators, and casting votes in referendum, but it said nothing of an unelected council to rule the country, Mr. Worachet said.
 
Mr. Worachet added that the rector′s call for an unelected Prime Minister is not based on any academic principle and can be seen as supportive of an extra-judicial political change.
 
Another act of defiance against Mr. Somkid took place at another building in Rangsit Campus of Thammasat University, when a group of student activists attempted to lower the Thai national flag from its pole and replace it with a black flag.
 
The students said the act symbolised the death of Thammasat University as a beacon of democracy for Thailand following its rector′s alleged collusion with anti-democracy forces. 
 
They also tried to explain to the security guards that Thammasat students had previously raised a black flag over their university during the student uprising against military dictatorship in October 1973. However, after a brief struggle, the guards eventually succeeded in preventing the students from hoisting the black flag.
 
 

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