High-profile academics who have made it onto the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) clearly have one thing in common - a stance against the so-called "Thaksin regime".
Most of these academics also played an active political role during the protests against the government of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra, which rocked the country for about six months from late last year.
Among these academics are the top executives of higher-educational institutes, namely, Somkid Lertpaitoon of Thammasat University (TU), Rajata Rajatanavin of Mahidol University, Chalermchai Boonyaleepun of Srinakharinwirot University, Wutisak Lapcharoensap of Ramkhamhaeng University, and Pirom Kamolratanakul of Chulalongkorn University.
The academics expressed their stance against the Yingluck-led government mostly under the banner of the Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT).
From late last year through to February, the CUPT issued six statements on politics. The first condemned the House of Representatives’ rush to pass the amnesty bill, which was widely believed to favour fugitive former prime minister Thaksin, and called on Yingluck to dissolve the House.
These academics also opened their campus grounds for people interested in joining an anti-Yingluck march on December 9 led by the group that is today known as the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).
Moreover, they ordered the temporary closure of their campuses on some days, citing risks of violence from the political turmoil. Their move, however, was widely interpreted as a tactic to heap more pressure on the Yingluck-led administration.
After she called for the House’s dissolution, the CUPT still recommended the postponement of the general election and urged the formation of a national government.
The council’s sixth statement also recommended that the caretaker government led by Yingluck following the House’s dissolution step down to take responsibility for the political violence.
Although Yingluck did not heed the CUPT’s calls, the prolonged political unrest finally nudged the military into intervening in May.
Since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) staged a coup on May 22, efforts have taken off in a bid to restore peace and order. With the interim constitution in place and the NLA ready for functioning, the second stage of the NCPO’s road map has now started.
So far, observers can’t help noticing that the many academics now on the legislative bench are the once-familiar faces in the movement against Yingluck and her brother.
Somkid is also a drafter of the 2007 Constitution, which was introduced in the wake of the 2006 coup.
Taweesak Suthakavatin, head of the lecturers’ council of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), has also been appointed an NLA member. People who are against the “Thaksin regime” will have heard his name before, too.
A few years ago, he co-founded the political group Siam Prachapiwat to press for political reform and a tough crackdown on corruption.
When the PDRC took to the streets, he also often appeared on its stage.
Other academics recruited to the NLA are Kittichai Triratanasirichai, president of Khon Kaen University, Niwes Nantachit, president of Chiang Mai University, Wuttichai Kapinkan, president of Kasetsart University, Pradit Wanarat, president of NIDA, and Noranit Setabutr, president of the TU Council.
The NLA, all of whose members are selected under NCPO rules, has just one representative from non-government groups working on social and environmental causes – Wallop Tangkananurak of the Foundation for the Better Life of Children.