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It takes a child to see the junta has no clothes By The Nation No one can be surprised that Deputy PM Prawit was unnerved by children’s free expression during semester-opening ceremonies Those who fear the free expression of children also fear the future. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan was among “respected elders” unnerved last week by the political views expressed in pedestals designed by high school students. Students across the country, from northeastern Nong Khai province to Phitsanulok and southern Trang, were paying respect to their teachers by displaying independent thought in ceremonies to mark the start of the semester. Traditionally, each student prepares a display of joss stick, candle and flowers, while each class creates a pedestal tray to place before their teacher. This year, many of the pedestal trays drew their themes from political events – including the scandal over Prawit’s multimillion-baht luxury watch collection. Students from Chumpol Phisai school in Nong Khai province took sarcastic aim at another political development, with the motif of a weighing-balance on which “250 Votes” on one side outweighed “Millions of Votes” on the other. The pedestal obviously referred to the recent prime ministerial election, in which 250 junta-appointed Senators helped elect General Prayut Chan-o-cha to the top government post against the wishes of millions of civilian voters. This was politics as per usual – seen on a daily basis ever since a military coup toppled an elected government in 2014. Yet authorities took offence at the notion that students would offer free comment on everyday reality. After photos of the pedestal tray spread on social media, police from Phon Phisai station in Nong Khai province visited the school and ordered the students to delete every picture shared online. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit claimed the high school students were tools of a conspiracy among adults who were exploiting the occasion for political gain. “Teenagers could not express ideas about political developments in this way by themselves. They have must have been brainwashed, perhaps by teachers spiteful about the new [ministerial] portfolios,” he said. Prawit’s reaction reflected a conviction, widespread among Thai adults, that children are incapable of thinking for themselves and must always follow the directions of adults. In fact, what the children had expressed was already in the public domain. Indeed, many of them would have had nothing to say had Prawit himself been clear and transparent about his assets and wealth. Nobody, meanwhile, would be expressing negative views about the junta had it accepted democratic norms instead of doing everything it could to perpetuate its power. The junta’s actions over the past five years have been an embarrassment by any truly democratic standard, culminating in the selection of senators who then did their duty by helping General Prayut back into power. Rather than seeking conspiracy theories behind legitimate criticism and free speech, powers-that-be should recognise that all citizens, young and old, have equal rights and freedoms in an open democratic society. People must be able to express their views on political developments and the future of the country. Students will one day inherit the country; they are the future. As such, it is heartening to see them expressing concern over political setbacks that threaten the nation’s development. As long as the younger generation continues to question and criticise those in power, we remain hopeful of positive change – especially once this current crop of authoritarian leaders has gone. The future of our country lies in the hands of our children. Let’s support and nurture their independent thinking. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/opinion/30371278 -- © Copyright The Nation 2019-06-18 Follow Thaivisa on LINE for breaking Thailand news and visa info
Prayut’s forces double down on Future Forward By The Nation Campaign against pro-democracy faction goes into overdrive with lese majeste law once again being used as political weapon Thailand is moving away from democracy after the election as the military and conservative elite twist laws, regulations, norms and traditions in a bid to eradicate opposition and extend their grip on power. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, whose military coup ousted an elected civilian government in 2014, has utilised all means to continue his rule. The military-sponsored charter has achieved its main aim – to ease him and his pro-military faction back to top political office. Prayut exploited an opaque process to handpick 250 senators, mostly from military backgrounds, who then voted to return him as the new premier. Nobody knows the identity of the Senate selection committee members, since the list of names was missing from the announcement in the Royal Gazette. After the pro-junta Phalang Prachart Party that proposed Prayut as premier won fewer seats in the House of Representatives than the anti-junta camp led by the Pheu Thai and Future Forward parties, the military has joined with the conservative royalist elite to block the “democratic threat”. But Prayut’s new government will inevitably be unstable due to its slim majority in the lower house. The Phalang Pracharat-led coalition is further weakened by the plethora of parties that agreed to join only if their short-term interests were met. The Bhumjaithai and Democrat parties are driving hard bargains in return for backing Prayut’s new government, but could pull out anytime if their “prices” are not met. With such weak foundations, Prayut and the pro-military faction have mapped out a plan to weaken opposition in the lower house, their chief target being the new face of politics, Future Forward. The party strikes fear into Prayut and the conservative elite since nearly all its MPs are young and vigorous politicians who have a strong faith in democracy. Future Forward is a threat because it represents both the new generation and the push to overthrow the political status quo. The party wants constitutional amendments that would liberate Thai politics from the control of a small conservative clique. To block this move, the military, conservative elite and royalists – both real and fake – are now coordinating to attack Future Forward members. Their latest move came this week when authorities and royalists began bullying the party’s spokesperson, Pannika Wanich, who is also an MP. She was threatened with 15 years in jail under the draconian lese majeste law, after photos and Facebook posts from nearly a decade ago were unearthed over the weekend. For what were described as inappropriate gestures towards the monarchy and HM King Rama IX, the MP and her friends were bombarded with insults by angry netizens. The whipped-up controversy escalated on Monday when Assistant National Police chief Pol Lt-General Piya Uta-yo said he had ordered the Technology Crime Suppression Division, the police legal department and the Special Branch Bureau to look into it. The taskforces will investigate whether or not Pannika and her friends had violated the computer crime law, the criminal law or the security law, he said. Pannika is a leading figure in Future Forward, stepping firmly into the political spotlight at the recent opening of Parliament. Prior to Pannika’s case, her youthful party had already been targeted by multiple lawsuits. Its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanookul have been the prime targets. For now, the party is battling on. But disbandment, and/or jail sentences for its leaders, are now a real threat. These would also threaten prospects for democratic freedoms in Thailand. Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/opinion/30370941 -- © Copyright The Nation 2019-06-12 Follow Thaivisa on LINE for breaking Thailand news and visa info