Students gather at a pro-democracy rally against military rule and the Constitutional Court’s ruling to dissolve the Future Forward Party at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok on Feb. 24. (Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)
A controversial decision by Thailand’s Constitutional Court to dissolve a popular opposition party has galvanized thousands of students across numerous prominent universities in Bangkok and provincial cities.
Several hundred students formed flash mobs on Feb. 25 evening at Mahidol University in Nakhon Pathom province outside Bangkok.
They held up placards in support of the Future Forward Party, a progressive political party that was dissolved on Feb. 21 for allegedly violating a campaign financing rule.
“We are the people,” they chanted. “We are the owners of this country.”
The students also held up phones with flashlights turned on in the twilight as they sang a plaintive old song about a long-suffering little bird that had a long way to travel — a clear allusion to Thailand’s fraught, decades-old journey toward full democracy.
At several other universities, including leading institutions such as Chulalongkorn and Kasetsart universities in Bangkok, hundreds of other students engaged in similar calls for increased democratic rights.
“Our country is in a very bad way. It’s like we are stuck in the past,” a fourth-year communication arts student at Chulalongkorn University who participated in a rally in central Bangkok told UCA News.
The student was referring to judicial decisions in recent years that saw several other popular anti-establishment parties dissolved for minor infractions.
In nationwide parliamentary elections last March, more than six million voters, most of them young Thais, cast their ballots for Future Forward, then a newly formed party with a liberal policy platform that included reducing the role of Thailand’s military in politics.
Its disbandment on what many observers have described as spurious, politically motivated grounds has dealt a further blow to the aspirations of Thais who want their democratic rights respected after a military coup ousted an elected government nearly six years ago.
Thailand’s current government is headed by Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army chief who led the coup in 2014 and is now the head of a coalition government of pro-establishment parties.
Protesters shouted “Prayut, get out!” while holding up three fingers in a popular pro-democracy salute adopted from the Hunger Games movies.
For days students have been mobilizing on social media, calling on one another to join flash mobs in support of Future Forward and other democratic forces in Thailand.
Peaceful protests are planned for today and tomorrow at several universities around the country.