Prominent social activist speaks out in defence of student protesters

PHOTO: Wikimedia

A leading academic and social critic has spoken out in defence of the current student protests, saying those involved have a right to freedom of expression. Sulak Sivaraksa defends the new 10-point manifesto put forward by the activists, denying that it goes too far in its calls for reform of the monarchy.

“The 10 demands are reasonable, since for the monarchy to continue exist, it has to be transparent and open.”

Sulak urges the current administration to listen to the demands and act on them, adding that to ignore the protesters’ demands and instead attack them, would not be a good move. His warning comes as members of the ruling Palang Pracharat party admit they are concerned about the possibility of bloodshed in the event of a military crackdown.

Administrators at Thammasat University were forced to issue an apology after around 10,000 students gathered at the Rangsit Campus, just north of Bangkok, on Monday night. Among their demands were calls for reform of the monarchy. Thailand’s strict lese majeste law makes criticism or defamation of the monarchy a very serious offence, which some politicians seized on to accuse those protesting of breaking the law.

However, Sulak and other Thai academics, both here and overseas, have defended the student activists, calling on the country’s universities to open up their facilities to debate and an exchange of views. Sulak points to a 1976 crackdown on student protesters at Thammasat University that led to the deaths of dozens of students, warning the government of a public backlash should history repeat itself.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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