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World Protesting Thai students boycott royal graduation day

10:50  30 october  2020
10:50  30 october  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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Earlier this year, students began protesting strict school rules imposed by past military regimes, such as requiring boys to wear crew cuts and girls to crop their hair at their earlobes. The protests have since grown, taking on graver issues like the disappearance of Thai dissidents.

Pro -democracy protesters in Thailand have confronted a motorcade carrying members of the royal family as it passed through a rally in Bangkok. The protesters , who were pushed back by ranks of police, raised the three-finger salute that has become a symbol of the protest movement.

By Jiraporn Kuhakan and Juarawee Kittisilpa

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: A protester performs on a red carpet while taking part in a protest against the government and to reform monarchy in Bangkok © Reuters/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA A protester performs on a red carpet while taking part in a protest against the government and to reform monarchy in Bangkok

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Some students sympathetic to Thai protesters said on Friday they were boycotting graduation ceremonies led by King Maha Vajiralongkorn in a show of anger at the monarchy amid growing calls to reform it.

a group of people performing on stage in front of a crowd: Protesters perform on a red carpet while taking part in a protest against the government and to reform monarchy in Bangkok © Reuters/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA Protesters perform on a red carpet while taking part in a protest against the government and to reform monarchy in Bangkok

The ceremonies, at which the monarch personally hands out degrees, are a rite of passage for graduates and their families with photographs of the moment displayed with pride in many Thai homes.

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Thai students protest to remove gov’t and reform monarchy (2:16). The document, ratified in April 2017, months after King Vajiralongkorn took the throne In July 2017, the military-appointed legislative assembly amended the royal property law to give the king full control of the Crown Property Bureau

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But protests since mid-July have brought open criticism of the monarchy and calls to curb its power, defying a longstanding taboo and lese majeste laws that set a jail term of up to 15 years for criticism of the king or his family.

Suppanat Kingkaew, 23, said he was boycotting the ceremonies being held on Friday and Saturday at Thammasat University, long viewed as a hotbed of radicalism and scene of a massacre of pro-democracy protesters by royalist state forces in 1976.

a person wearing a hat talking on a cell phone: A protester shows the three-finger salute while taking part in a protest against the government and to reform monarchy in Bangkok © Reuters/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA A protester shows the three-finger salute while taking part in a protest against the government and to reform monarchy in Bangkok

"Whatever it takes so that the hall is left with the smallest number of people," Suppanat told Reuters. "This is to send an indirect message that some of us are unhappy with the monarchy and we want change."

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Thailand ’s growing protest movement, which was set off by student activism last month, has since gained broader support. Even before the protest kicked off, the Thai security apparatus had begun harassing those who might want to speak out. Mr. Arnon was arrested on sedition charges last week.

Students gather at a pro -democracy rally against the military government at Thammasat University in Bangkok on Feb. In recent days , students in university and school campuses across the country criticized what they described as Thailand ’s democratic deficit and chanted for Prayuth to step down.

a group of people sitting on a rug: A protester performs on a red carpet while taking part in a protest against the government and to reform monarchy in Bangkok © Reuters/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA A protester performs on a red carpet while taking part in a protest against the government and to reform monarchy in Bangkok

The university did not respond to a request for comment.

The Palace did not comment, as it has not done since protests began in mid-July.

Protests initially called for a new constitution and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader, but then demands evolved to include reducing the monarchy's power.

It was unclear how many Thammasat students would follow the boycott.

Papangkorn Asavapanichakul, 24, said he would attend.

"I want the photograph. It's a once-in-a-lifetime event," he said.

Degree ceremonies presided over by the king began before the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 at a time the palace sought to strengthen its relationship with a growing middle class.

They gained greater importance under the king's late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who spent decades working to strengthen the prestige of the monarchy - which according to the constitution must be revered.

Protesters say the king's powers should be reduced and changes that gave him personal control of some army units and the palace fortune should be reversed. They also want the prime minister removed, accusing him of foul play in 2019 elections - an accusation he denies.

Of those students planning to attend the ceremonies, some said family pressure had outweighed politics.

"My mother asked me to come," said one 24-year-old student who gave his name only as Japan. "I didn't really want to join it, honestly."

(Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsaarng and Jit Phokaew; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Thai students pose with 'dissidents' in graduation protest .
Thai students pose with 'dissidents' in graduation protestBANGKOK (Reuters) - Some students at Thailand's Thammasat University posed with cardboard cutouts of well-known critics of the monarchy on Saturday in a protest as King Maha Vajiralongkorn was to present degrees amid growing calls for royal reform.

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