Protesters defy junta restriction
Activists ignore ban and criticise 'rape of Thailand'
Academics, university students and journalists gather as a sign of civil disobedience to protest the coup at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus.
As many as 50 university students and some academics openly defied the military yesterday and demonstrated against last week's coup and its "illegitimate leaders" at Thammasat University.
About 200 people witnessed the demonstration, which included the singing of pro-democracy songs.
There were no arrests, although several intelligence officers were present and recorded the event.
Foreign and local journalists covered the peaceful outdoors protest-cum-discussion at Thammasat, a hotbed for student activism against several dictatorships over the past three decades.
The demonstration defied prohibitions imposed by the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) on political activity and gatherings of groups of five or more.
Police had been requested to stay away by Thammasat University assistant rector Prinya Thewanaruemitkul. He assured them matters would not get out of control. There was no comment from senior police.
Students and lecturers - mostly wearing black - urged some 200 listeners to resist the CDRM and denounced the coup and its leaders as illegitimate and a threat to democracy.
Students held hands and sang pro-democracy songs while vowing to continue the fight to end the new dictatorship.
"We no longer need to wear the shirts of losers - political activists who accepted the coup. The choice in our world is not just between Thaksin or tanks," said Arunwana Sanitkawathee, a Thammasat journalism student.
The senior argued Thais were too used to Superman-like heroes coming to their rescue.
They were happy the junta had freed them of Thaksin Shinawatra but should remember that he, too, was considered a hero not so long ago, Arunwana said.
Arunwana said it was not the job of the military to educate the public by censoring news.
Chulalongkorn University sociology graduate student Methas Buachum declared the coup was akin to the "rape of Thailand".
"Martial law is passed at will and we're susceptible to 'rape'. The military and tanks are a symbol of senselessness and violence," Methas told the crowd.
Chulalongkorn political science lecturer Kanokrat Lertchoosakul warned the coup was no guarantee Thaksin would not return to power. "The coup is not the beginning of [political] reform," she said.
People must protect their political rights and right to political participation, she said.
"The junta has no legitimacy," said Chanya Yimprasert, a labour activist.
Thammasat graduate student and rally organiser Uchaen Cheangsane said: "Today our political rights have been curtailed by a military regime that tore up the Constitution. What we're doing is intentional defiance of junta orders."
Some claimed the CDRM had been plotting a coup for as long as eight months and that its stated reasons for the overthrow were not genuine. A similar demonstration is slated to be held at the Chulalongkorn political science faculty at 4pm tomorrow. Political scientist Prapas Pintoptaeng, Giles Ungpakorn and doctoral student Sirote Klamphaiboon will speak.