KHON KAEN: Students who turned up in large numbers at Khon Kaen University on Saturday evening heard leaders condemn the government for mishandling the coronavirus emergency and other critical issues. 

As the kingdom teeters on the cusp of what might be a severe outbreak of the devastating coronavirus with an already troubled economy and a drought which the government says is the worst in 40 years, students throughout Thailand and opposition groups continue to protest. They are calling for the removal of the current government and blaming it for its mismanagement of an an evolving series of crises.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan ocha is facing his stiffest test yet as Thai leader since 2014 as he confronts a plummeting economy, the worst drought in 40 years, an emerging breakout of the coronavirus infection which has closed down European countries and now also, continued student protests. Last Saturday, a raucous crowd of students called for his government to step down and cited the coronavirus emergency as a failure of the current government.

Thai students at Khon Kaen University came out for a second night on Saturday to protest against the government in large numbers. The rally occurred against a backdrop of rising concerns for the kingdom as the coronavirus threatens to take hold with a pickup of infections and fears for the already deeply troubled Thai economy.

The gathering is part of an ongoing, rolling campaign of protests across the kingdom which has not stopped since the dissolution of the Future Forward Party on the 21st of February.

New Move Forward Party

Former MPs from that party have already moved to a new political grouping named the Move Forward Party.

The new party, in reality, is the takeover of an old party and name change. Move Forward is being led by a charismatic young leader and Bangkok MP, Pita ‘Tim’ Limjaroenrat. 

Enthusiastic protest by students ends in dancing

The protests have since gathered steam. The only change is that the calls are now not so much focused on political reform but the ousting of the current government.

This was the main theme of Saturday’s event which saw students arrive at the grounds of the law faculty at Khon Kaen university to commence their loud and raucous protest which ended in a night of music and song.

White blanket to express words of discontent

The protests began at 6.30 pm and students were invited to write on a white blanket expressing their thoughts on the current government.

Speakers on the podium consisting of student leaders did not hesitate to blame the government for its handling of the virus emergency as well as other severe challenges which have led Thailand into what one former Finance Minister, Virabongsa Ramangkura, told an opposition party seminar last week was a ‘multi crisis’ situation. 

These circumstances were acknowledged by the Prime Minister himself on Saturday evening when he called for unity in the face of a deteriorating economy, the worst drought in 40 years and now a seething movement towards crisis as the public fear the worst is to come from the virus.

Student leaders blame the government for mishandling the coronavirus crisis and other challenges facing Thailand

The speakers at the Khon Kaen university assembly warmed to the theme and accused the government’s leadership of failure to administer the country properly following an ongoing series of gaffes and miscommunications.

They called for the prime minister and his government to stand down.

One student leader captured the moment when he said: ‘We are afraid of the virus. But we are also duty-bound to study and seek the government’s ouster.’

Free face masks and gels handed out

At the entrance to the event, the organisers had arranged to make available face masks and also handed out hand gels to those attending.

It is reported that one of the current measures being considered by the government, on the expert advice of its disease control panel, is a ban on public gatherings which would impinge on such protests in the future.

Friday 13th protests in Bangkok at the death of democracy and calls for the government to go

The student protests over the weekend followed a smaller event on Friday when hundreds marched in Bangkok also calling for the current government to resign.

Many of the protestors appeared to query the legitimacy of the current ministry and wore dark clothing while carrying banners expressing their point of view.

Many oppose the 2017 Constitution which allowed a handpicked Senate to vote on the election of a prime minister. Protestors explained they wore black to signify the death of democracy. One woman carried a miniature tank to make her point.

2017 Constitution was approved in a plebiscite in 2016

The current Thai constitution was approved by a significant majority in a plebiscite in August 2016.

The opposition argues that that vote took place under restrictive conditions imposed by the then ruling military junta.

The junta was led by current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan ocha. It was in power from 2014 to 2019.

Prime Minister urges unity in facing the country’s challenges and for criticism to be constructive

However, since the election last year, it should be noted that the current government has managed to retain a majority in the directly elected House of Representatives.

It recently won a series of no-confidence votes targeted at the prime minister and a range of his ministers. The main government party, Palang Pracharat, has also won several competitive bye-elections.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan ocha called for unity in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

He said that criticism of the government should be within limits and that at this time, constructive criticism was what was required and a willingness to come together to fend off national challenges.

Further reading:

Fears that Thailand could be on the verge of a phase 3 breakout with 32 new infections on 1 day

Prayut to meet the people as former minister lashes out at the current government’s ‘multi crisis’ economy

Government adopts a carrot and stick approach to student protests with the first coronavirus death in Thailand

Police monitoring a network of rolling pro-democracy flash mobs in schools and universities this week