Students braved the rain early yesterday at a Bangkok university to voice anger at the government and demand a return to democracy.
Speakers took turns addressing a group of a 100 of their peers huddled under an awning at about 5pm at Srinakharinwirot University, the latest of what have become near daily protests calling for change.
“Protesting to repel the dictators is necessary, of course,” said Teerapat “Bat” Ketdon, a fourth-year International Relations student. “But it will mean nothing without changing the law.”
Teerapat was one of a series of speakers to call for the constitution to be rewritten to shift the balance of power back to the public.
Nattpong “Q” Seehatep, 23, said he came out because he couldn’t bear watching the military-backed government take advantage of poor people and protect only the “elite.”
“The junta government should stop acting like a big barrier to block further progress from happening by accusing people who join the protests as ‘nation traitors,’ because those who tell you the truth are the most sincere,” Nattpong said.
Though an election was held last year, the power structure of the previous five years of junta-rule remains largely intact.
The youngest speaker was not from the university but a 16-year-old sophomore from Sathit Srinakharinwirot Prasarnmit School, who only identified himself by his nickname Ball and said it was his first protest. Despite his parents’ deep concern about his safety, he felt that there was no better time for him to speak out.
“Politics is for everybody because it’s going to affect our lives one way or another, so everybody should feel free to participate in political activities,” he said.
He said that the popular attitude that the youth should stay out of politics was nonsense, noting that today’s youth activists didn’t identify with the Redshirt vs. Yellowshirt cycle of the past decade.
“Young people don’t have shirts, so we won’t fight on behalf of that,” he said. “We fight for ourselves.”
After the speeches, a long line of students formed to sign a petition demanding the charter be revised.
As at similar protests which have sprung up since mid-July, the protesters’ key demands were dissolving the current government, protecting the right to free expression and revising the constitution. No direct references were made to the monarchy, which have drawn warnings from the heads of the military and government.
Protesters called on the media not to distort their words. Online, many of complained about the lack of domestic media coverage.
Today pro-democracy protests continue at about 4pm on Chulalongkorn University’s Phra Boron field. A major rally will be staged Sunday at the Democracy Monument, where thousands of protestors are expected.
Additional reporting Chayanit Itthipongmaetee and Todd Ruiz