BANGKOK -Pro-election activists stepped up their campaign on Saturday with denunciations of the military regime’s “lies”, symbolised by masks bearing the face of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha with Pinocchio’s nose.
The demonstration, the fourth in a series of events planned through May, took place at the Tha Phra Chan campus of Thammasat University .
The activists want to see a general election held this year, but their demand is extremely unlikely to be met. Related legislation remains stalled in the junta’s rubber-stamp legislature, which also inexplicably rejected all seven Election Commission candidates this week.
The activities started at noon on Saturday with a flea market, a mini concert, poster handouts and a life-sized “Wait for Election” figure with a ballot box for a head and three watches on its wrist.
The watches represented Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is under pressure to step down over his huge collection of expensive and undeclared accessories, but probably never will as long as Gen Prayut has his back.
Pro-election T-shirts, as well as food and drinks, were also on sale before speakers took the stage. Chonticha Jaengreo, a coordinator, said some of the proceeds would finance upcoming activities.
Shortly before the speeches began, Watana Muangsook, a former commerce minister and senior Pheu Thai Party figure, arrived as promised. He had written earlier on Facebook he would join the activists after they invited politicians to join them.
He said he came to give moral support to the students. “I don’t care if I’m viewed as politicising their cause and tarnishing the students’ move. As a voter, I have every right to demand the government make good on its word.”
The activists had challenged politicians earlier to take a stand and side with the people rather than the military. However, many political figures fear that doing so could put them in hot water with the junta and expose them to legal action.
The speeches focused on how elections are a key to the future of the new generation. The speakers also criticised the government for its handling of political and environmental issues.
Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, a 19-year-old political science student at Thammasat, said the clash today was a struggle between the new generation and the old one at Parliament.
“We can see there are no new-generation people in the NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order] and the NLA [National Legislative Assembly],” he said.
“We don’t have a future because these people aren’t here to create one. They’re trying to defy nature for fear the world is changing with the times. We’re fighting the enemy of the people. They won’t let us have a better life but we’ll get it somehow.”
Sirawich “Ja New” Serithiwat said the NCPO had been in office for four years already.
“And it asked for ‘not much time’,” he said, referring to the early days following the 2014 coup. “Several people complain they got nothing from the polls but do they really want to get stuck with the NCPO for another life?
“An election will get us out of dictatorship and give us a better alternative, not the one chosen by the ‘Five Rivers’,” he said, referring to the NCPO and its associated executive and legislative bodies.
“If we are to count the lies Gen Prayut and his NCPO have told us, their noses must now be the distance to Mars.”
Mr Sirawich urged participants to wear masks bearing the face of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Pinocchio’s nose — he named it “Yutnocchio” — to proclaim an end to the lies.
“An election is the declaration of the country’s future by the people,” he concluded while the audience chanted “Election this year!”
The activists said they had asked the university for permission to use the space near the entrance to the auditorium and had informed Chana Songkhram police in advance as required under the new public assembly law.