Cop-blocked from venues, Thai activists announce run to ‘chase out’ Prayuth

Photo: Run Against Dictatorship / FB
Photo: Run Against Dictatorship / FB
Update Dec. 27: Race organizers announced that they’ve been forced to find a park for the run after Thammasat University withdrew its permission to use the campus without explanation. The location is changed to Suan Rod Fai (Vachirabenjatas Park).

Activists planning a run against dictatorship next month were denied a venue to hold their news conference for a second time this morning.

A planned announcement of the “Run Against Dictatorship” at 10am at the Royal Rattanakosin Hotel was canceled under pressure from the authorities, the student activists said, who relocated to address the media under a symbolically potent tree on the campus of Thammasat University. 

“We’ve been forbidden from hosting a presser two times,” Chulalongkorn University student Tanawat Wongchai said. “If the country is truly democratic, why is holding a press conference, which is a basic human right, not possible? This reflects that Thailand is not governed by a democratic government as they claim.” 

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The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand last week said the event had been canceled under pressure from local police at the behest of higher-ups, which has become de rigueur for events with sensitive topics. 

The run, in Thai called more colorfully “Chase out the Uncle” in reference to junta leader turned Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, has been trending online.

Tanawat said the run’s demands would be threefold. First, the government must make good on previous economic promises. Secondly, the constitution must be amended to be democratic and allow people to freely express their opinions. Lastly, the government must stop abusing its power and cease “bullying” those whose opinions differ.

The event will begin at 4:30am on Jan. 12 from the football stadium at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus. Then the 7K run will begin at 5:30am, going along Phra Atit, Nakhon Sawan, Lan Luang and Ratchadamnoen roads near the administrative seat of power. 

The runners will circle the Democracy Monument three times as a symbolic gesture, before coming back to Thammasat University. 

Speaking under the same tree where a previous popular revolt that brought down a dictator began in 1973, Tanawat said it was definitely a sporting, not political, event. 

Despite pressure to change the name of the event, he said it would remain “Run Against Dictatorship.”


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