Exclusive: Thailand tells universities to stop student calls for monarchy reform

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai officials have called on heads of universities to ask students to demand reform of the monarchy, warning that such calls could lead to violence, a member of the military-appointed Senate Said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: General Secretary of the Free Youth Group, Tatyap Rungprakitsare presented himself at a police station during a rally to demand the government resign, dissolve the parliament and hold fresh elections in Bangkok, Thailand under the amended constitution Walks to August 16, 2020. REUTERS / Jorge Silva

In mid-June, Thailand has faced daily protests since Prime Minister Pruthuth Chan-okha, a former junta leader, and a call for a new constitution and departure for elections.

Some groups have also listed 10 demands to curb the powers of the Royal Palace of King Maha Vajirlongkorn, breaking the long-standing taboo in the Southeast Asian country.

Senator Somachai Sawangkaran told Reuters that letters were sent by state-appointed provincial governors to university heads calling them for meetings before the September 19 protests in Bangkok and elsewhere.

“University administrators should build understanding with students on this and stop the demands of the monarchy,” he said.

“We did not ask the governors to stop the protests, but we want them to build understanding with university officials, especially on the monarchy’s 10 demands.”

An Interior Ministry official confirmed that such letters had been sent and said that this was standard procedure. Palace did not respond to requests for comment.

Student leader Panusaya “Rung”, Sithijaravattankul, 21, who was the first to read the list of 10 demands for palace reform, told Reuters that this amounted to “desperate tactics”.

“They are trying to use this tactic to repress and bully people,” Panasa said, with more than a dozen activists arrested in previous protests before being released on bail.

A university letter reviewed by Reuters stated: “There are concerns about protests in the behavior of some groups that are inappropriate, for example, those who want to overthrow the monarchy and who revoke Article 112 of the Criminal Code Demand to do. “

Article 112 refers to Thailand’s Lez Majeste laws, which prescribe a jail term of up to 15 years for insulting the king.

“Continue to continue”

“This is a sensitive matter that could lead to violence,” the letter said – specifically referring to incidents in 1976 and 1992, when security forces killed scores of anti-government protesters.

Police said the police would take legal action against anyone misbehaving in the protests while the Digital Ministry would take legal action against someone using social media to “distort and discredit the monarchy” or incite protest Will do.

Officials attending a meeting said officials asked their university to prepare a list of potential firefighters.

Government spokesperson Anucha Burapachari said she was not aware of the letters of the Interior Ministry. He said the government would not try to stop the protests, but the authorities would implement the law and did not want “exodus or conflict”.

Most Thai universities are sponsored by the state.

In a statement supporting students’ freedom of expression in August, Ensorn Unno, a lecturer at the University of Thammasat, who joined more than 100 academics, said such orders were not uncommon.

He said the only difference this time is that some evidence has been leaked.

Prime Minister Prathuth, a former junta leader who has dismissed allegations that the last year’s elections were inappropriate, has said that the protest should be allowed, but not criticism, of the monarchy.

The Senate helped assure Prathuth as Prime Minister after the 2019 election. It was appointed by the previous military government of Pruthuth and the protesters want it removed under a new constitution.

Among the 10 reforms demanded by some student groups for the monarchy included a reduction in the king’s constitutional powers, as well as his personal control of the royal fortunes and some units of the military.

Writing by Matthew Toastwin; Editing by Kim Coghill