NAKHON PATHOM — Anger at the dissolution of a popular opposition party spilled into a call for PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign at a student protest on Tuesday evening.
Coming on the heels of yesterday’s simultaneous rallies at Chulalongkorn and Kasetsart universities, at least 600 people gathered at a plaza inside Mahidol University’s Salaya Campus west of Bangkok. The crowd held banners and flashed the anti-military three finger salute to protest the disbandment of the Future Forward Party.
“I’m very excited to see the very large turnout here,” organizer Bunkueanun Paothong, who studies international relations, said. “We want Mahidol students to express their own grievance over the government and the Constitution Court’s decision.”
“We want them to feel that this is their duty to come out and say that this is wrong. We want to make sure that the government hears our voices,” he said.
But some of the loudest cheers came when a student activist from Thammasat University led the shout of “Prayut, get out!”
The escalation followed an outburst of fury on social media after the youth-oriented Future Forward Party, which campaigned largely on progressive platforms, was disbanded by the Constitutional Court on Feb. 21.
The protest, billed by organizers as a flash mob, was mobilized by a group called “Coalition of Salaya Students.” Supporters turn to the hashtag #MUNeedsDemocracy and #SalayaDoesn’tEatColorfulDesserts to prompt social media-savvy students to come out in the show of solidarity.
The reference to “colorful desserts” denotes a Thai dessert called salim, whose name has been adopted as a derogatory term for the pro-establishment faction.
Parit Chiwarak, the Thammasat activist, said he was invited by the organizers to address the crowd today.
He said it was his “duty for the sake of students’ solidarity for democracy to support any effort of our fellow students to demand back our future, our right, our power, and our government.”
Another student, Bee, from the Faculty of Science, said she joined the rally because she wants to show the spirit of her university against what she perceived to be an injustice.
“I’m proud to see everyone come out to demand democratic values for this country,” she said. “People should come out and join students in a fight against injustice.”
The protest went peacefully. The protesters dispersed around 7.15pm.
Salaya’s rally is one of the university protests held nationwide today. Joining them today are Bangkok University, Ubon Ratchathani University in the northeast, as well as Chiang Mai and Maejo universities in the north.
Each of them employed different catchy hashtags to call out classmates, but there is no apparent link that they are organized in a coordinated effort.
The wave of student-led rallies also caught many by surprise. Thailand has not seen a large scale pro-democracy protest organized by students for decades since the uprising against a coup government in May 1992.
Similar protests are planned for tomorrow at several colleges, including Thammasat University, an institution long associated with democratic struggles and student activism.