Protesters vow to defy Thammasat U’s ban on Sept. 19 rally

Pro-democracy protesters assemble Aug. 16 near Bangkok’s Democracy Monument. Photo: Coconuts
Pro-democracy protesters assemble Aug. 16 near Bangkok’s Democracy Monument. Photo: Coconuts

Pro-democracy protest leaders insisted today that their next major rally set for Sept. 19 will go forward despite Thammasat University’s refusal to grant them permission.

Rally organizer and activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak today said they would gather there as planned, rejecting that they had failed to follow procedure as the school alleged in denying use of its Tha Prachan campus for an anti-government rally expected to draw thousands.

“When we asked them which rule we didn’t follow correctly, they didn’t explain it to us,” the Free People movement organizer said.

Students would go ahead and rally without permission as they have before he said, referencing a 1976 rally where students were massacred and the popular uprising of 1973.

“However, we are still going to arrange the rally here because, in the past, for the events of October 6 or October 14, people didn’t ask for the university’s permission also,” Parit said. 

He went on to say that Thammasat, an institution associated with democratic principles and human rights since its founding, is owned by the people and not a few “ajarns” (professors) who “serve dictators.” 

A university spokesperson had not responded to inquiries as of publication time.

As for whether the rally can match that held last month at the school’s Rangsit campus on the outskirts, Parit said he expects at least as many to show up. Police estimated that 2,500 demonstrators assembled at the Aug. 10 rally, where speakers defied longstanding taboo to deliver 10 demands for royal reforms, drawing sharp rebukes from military brass.

Protests which had begun early in the year following the dissolution of a popular progressive political party resumed in force with the easing of pandemic measures. On Aug. 16, a second mass rally at the Democracy Monument drew 10,000 to 20,000 people one month after the first cascaded into similar events nationwide.

Since July, the authorities have followed the timeworn playbook of arresting and charging organizers with serious crimes only to free them on bail with a drawn-out legal process looming over them. A number of those arrested, from activists to artists, were on a leaked police wanted list and have been frequent guests of Bangkok’s Samranrat Police Station.

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