With a parade of people dressed in dinosaur costumes to represent Thailand’s establishment, high school students led a protest by thousands of people in Bangkok with calls to bring down the government and reform the monarchy.
“Bad Students” launch a broadside against ‘authoritarian dinosaurs’
The rally was organised despite Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issuing a statement, threatening to use the full force of the law against the protesters.
Intensifying the standoff, ultra-royalists also called for the government to enforce section 112 of the Penal Code on lese majeste, which carries a jail term of between three and 15 years against pro-democracy protesters.
Police had earlier issued summons to two leaders of the high-school movement, accusing them of violating the emergency law by attending political rallies in October.
The teen leaders said their Saturday theme, “#ByeByeDinosaurs”, aimed to escalate the political fight from more than just targeting the Education Ministry to the current undemocratic political system, including calling for reform of the monarchy.
“Dinosaurs represent the set of values in Thai authoritarian culture while meteorites represent democratic values embracing liberty, equality and fraternity, ” they explained.
They blamed Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, who voted to reject the Constitution draft proposed by Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), a Thai human rights NGO.
The high school students also seek greater freedom and fairer treatment within an education system they say is archaic and aimed primarily at inculcating obedience. Many spoke of the importance of gender equality. They demanded Nataphol’s resignation if he could not reform the education system.
Protests since July have been around three core demands: the removal of Prayut as prime minister, a new constitution and reforms to the monarchy.
Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the prime minister hoped protesters would exercise their freedom constructively and within the law.
Prayut has rejected the demand of protesters that he resign and their accusations that he engineered last year’s election.
The Royal Palace has made no comment since the protests began in July. When asked about the protesters earlier this month, the king said “we love them all the same” and described Thailand as a “land of compromise”. — The Nation/ANN/Reuters