BANGKOK — Student-led protests against the government will only grow larger if the Prime Minister continues to ignore their calls for resignation, an activist said Monday, two days after hundreds showed up for the latest rally.
Jutatip Sirikhan from the activist group Student Union of Thailand said the protests will not stop until the government satisfies their demand, which include a House dissolution and a new, more democratic charter – a scope deemed too large and unrealistic by some experts.
“We’re currently discussing the plans,” Jutatip said in a phone interview. “But we will certainly hold more flash mobs until the government listens to us.”
The Saturday protest organized by the Student Union of Thailand, whose membership numbers in the dozens, drew at least 2,500 people according to media reports. Similar gatherings took place in Chiang Mai and Ubon Ratchathani.
It was the largest gathering since the government’s declaration of the Emergency Decree back in March, which stamped out the growing student protests against PM Prayut’s leadership in universities across the country earlier this year.
Protesters urge PM Prayut Chan-ocha to call a new election, draft a new constitution that promotes democratic institutions, and end harassment of activists. One media report said the rally appeared to be inspired by protests against Chinese government in Hong Kong.
But political scientist Pitch Pongsawat said it is unlikely for the protest to achieve its goals in such a time.
“It’s impossible,” Pitch, who teaches at Chulalongkorn University, said. “I haven’t seen any protests in Thailand so far that can successfully force the government to dissolve itself.”
In fact, Pitch warned, their call for Gen. Prayut to dissolve the Parliament would play into the general’s favor given the current constitution terms.
“If there’s a new election, Prayut’s party will win due to the mechanisms they laid out in the current charter,” the professor said.
Academic and activist Sarinee Achavanuntakul said the protester’s demand for the government to stop harassing or threatening its critics is most likely to be answered.
Asked whether the protests will snowball into larger movements like what happened in Hong Kong, Sarinee said it’s too early to speculate.
“There’s still a lot of planning and coordination to do,” she said. “Many right now are humiliating them as amateurs, but this proves that their campaign was organic. They’re just ordinary people who want to express their opinion.”
PM Prayut has yet to respond to the protesters’ demands. Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan said he has no comment on the matter, but added that security officials are closely monitoring the situation.
Jutatip the activist conceded that prospects for the demands to be met are low, but said the government would certainly be alarmed by the large turnout of demonstrators.
“Two-week is indeed a very short time,” Jutatip said. “However, I firmly believe that if we keep putting more pressure on the government, at least some of our demands will eventually be answered.”