BANGKOK — Student-led protests against what they perceived as undemocratic government continued for the third day on Wednesday, spreading to at least five universities.
Rallies attacking PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s leadership took place at Silpakorn, Thammasat, Srinakharinwirot universities, and King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology in Bangkok metropolis, while a similar protest was held at Khon Kaen University in the northeast.
A group of high schoolers also attempted to stage a protest in solidarity with the university students at the all-girl Satriwithaya School, but they were forbidden to do so by the school director. They later moved to join a larger protest at the nearby Silpakorn University.
“The school gave an excuse that they wanted to be politically neutral because some staff might not have the same opinions as us, so they said school grounds should not be used to express political standpoints,” one of the students said.
“We think the school should allow us to speak up because it’s a place that gives us education. So why don’t they give us an area to express our democratic side?” another Satriwithaya student said in an interview. “I’m disappointed by what they did to us.”
At Silpakorn University’s Tha Phra campus, students took turn to slam many alleged ills under the quasi-civilian government of PM Prayut, who first came to power in the May 2014 coup.
“Us students coming out is not only a social media trend. We are demanding democracy. The military junta party of the current PM should resign,” a student said without giving her name, citing fears of retaliation from the authorities.
She continued, “We need a full form of democracy, without anyone pulling the strings or cheating.”
The protests initially began as a reaction to the dissolution of the Future Forward Party, but have since escalated into an outright challenge to Prayut’s military-backed administration.
Many supporters of the now disbanded party also believe there was a conspiracy by a higher power to dissolve their faction. Party sec-gen Piyabutr Saengkanokkul himself said on Feb. 21 that there is a “director” pulling the string behind the scene.
When asked who she thought was behind Future Forward’s dissolution, the Silpakorn student smiled wryly.
“Take out the laws that prevent me from telling the truth, and I’ll tell you a story,” she said. “Preventing us from speaking is violating our human rights.”