WATCH SCANDAL, AUTHORITARIANISM AND SOCIAL INEQUALITY HIGHLIGHTED IN ANNUAL CHULALONGKORN-THAMMSAT PARADE
SERIOUS POLITICAL, social and economic issues were highlighted by Chulalongkorn and Thammasat University students yesterday, as they satirised Thai politics under the junta government before a football game.
The 72nd match was celebrated under the theme “Our Rise”, a message calling on people to fight against injustice in society, including corruption, authoritarian rule and the widening income gap.
During the pre-game parade, students followed their tradition of serious fun, using political satire and papier-mache puppets to reference controversial issues, including the scandal over Deputy PM General Prawit Wongsuwan’s large collection of luxury watches. They also mocked Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha in drawing an analogy to “Nonthok”, a demon from the Ramayana story with the magical power to cause anyone’s death with the point of a finger. In the story, the demon is enticed to point his finger at himself, causing his own demise.
Prawit has denied any corruption regarding his controversial collection of luxury watches, while netizens have launched campaigns demanding his resignation.
The message on the back of the Prawit puppet also lampoons the controversial death of a junior student at a military academy. The message apparently refers to a statement from Prawit that when he studied at the academy he had also been physically punished but had survived.
The student parade also attacked the junta regime’s authoritarian rule, which they suggested had resulted in reduced freedom and misuse of tax revenue.
Thammasat students used a puppet to allude to the new constitution giving a green light to outsiders being able to serve as the prime minister after the general election.
They pointed to Prayut’s use of the powers under Section 44 of the interim constitution to limit people’s freedoms and to accelerate investments in mega-infrastructure projects. Thammasat student created models of a tank and a submarine alluding to the government spending tax money on shopping trips for weapons, actions that have been heavily criticised by the press and the general public.
The inequality of opportunities and income between the leaders of big business and average people also was mocked by referring to the monopoly power of big business to take advantage of small businesses and ordinary people.
Lattapon Yimlamai, the leader of Thammasat University’s political satire club, said the parade saw the biggest cheers for the first and the last puppets, which lampooned the watch scandal and the undemocratic constitution. He said neither police nor military officers disrupted the parade.
“The parade went smoothly,” Lattapon said.
However, he told The Nation on Friday that the university’s executives had sought the club’s cooperation to not target individuals or organisations.
Chulalongkorn students also took on the watch scandal as the centrepiece of their political satire, portraying a male model wearing a Hawaiian shirt, along with a large poster saying that satire on watches is prohibited, along with making fun of the rulers. Students were chained around the model, suggesting the lack of freedom of expression under junta rule.