Conflicts & War

Thailand student protests spread to schools as anti-military chorus grows

Bangkok, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- Thai schoolchildren have joined a wave of anti-government protests launched by university students to oppose the military’s control on national politics and initiate reforms, including curbs on the powers of the powerful and off-bounds royal household.

Since Monday, students from many schools have carried out symbolic protests while singing the national anthem every morning, challenging the authoritarian educational and political system that upholds hierarchy and obedience.

In videos flooding the social networks in the country, the students, who collectively call themselves Bad Student(s), could be seen gesturing with their hands and the middle three fingers raised to the sky and holding up white ribbons or papers in a sign of resistance against the government.

The hand gesture is copied from ” the Hunger Games” film franchise,.

In some schools, teachers have intimidated the protesting students and one even hit a pupil, although apologizing later, while the police have been accused of removing white ribbons at an institute, although the force has denied doing so.

Wearing masks and uniforms, dozens of students on Wednesday gathered in front of the education ministry in Bangkok to express anger against the intimidation that students have faced during the protests in schools earlier this week, with teachers and police accused of harassing the protesters on many occasions.

They also demanded the resignation of Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, accusing him of being pro-military and criticizing the strict disciplinary norms in educational institutions, which control even the hair cuts of students.

The UNICEF on Tuesday defended the Thai students’ right to express their political opinion in their institutions “without fear or intimidation,” insisting that this right was enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Thailand.

After the outcry, the education ministry ordered schools and other institutions to allow students to express their political opinions “freely,” but without violating the law.

In mid-July, Thai university students had launched a series of anti-government protests to demand a constitutional reform, the dissolution of the parliament and more democratic elections, as well as an end to the persecution of dissidents.

Some protesters also demanded a reform in the Lèse-majesté law that stipulates prison terms of up to 15 years for insulting the royal household, and reduction in the powers of King Vajiralongkorn.

The monarch, who spends long periods of time in Germany, has extended his control over the crown property office and increased the number of soldiers directly reporting to the throne after succeeding his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in 2016.

The police on Wednesday issued arrest warrants against six activists who proposed the reforms linked to the monarchy’s power, a sensitive and controversial issue, under charges of sedition and violating health restrictions during the pandemic.

Student unrest has spread across institutions as young residents express dissatisfaction with the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, a former military general who led a coup in 2016 and has been accused by the students of destroying democratic institutions and persecuting his opponents.

Prayut was elected prime minister in 2019 in elections that the protesters have termed non-transparent and unjust, with the help of 250 lawmakers directly nominated by the former military junta. EFE-EPA


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