BANGKOK (AFP) – Thousands of high school students upset about Thailand’s lacklustre education system rallied alongside protestors dressed as dancing dinosaurs in Bangkok yesterday.
It was the first mass gathering in the kingdom since Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha warned authorities would use all laws, including harsh defamation charges, to crack down on pro-democracy protesters.
Since August, emboldened by a broader political protest movement sweeping Thailand, a group called the “Bad Students” have campaigned for the resignation of Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, demanded cultural change, equality, a curriculum overhaul and relaxation of strict rules.
Ahead of yesterday’s rally three student leaders were summoned for police questioning and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said there were now four juveniles facing potential prosecution.
But despite the threats the youngsters remained defiant as they danced alongside half a dozen T-Rex characters representing Thailand’s “political dinosaurs” and bounced around giant “asteroid” balls.
“We have to come out and make our voices heard to force change,” Leaf, 15 told AFP.
Many students wore coloured wrist bands to indicate they were underage, so older protesters could protect them.
“School is not a safe place (for girls),” one student’s placard said.
Hundreds of protesters at the rally wore rubber duck hair clips, a reference to pro-democracy protesters using inflatable pool toys to shield themselves from police water cannon and tear gas on Tuesday.
Many protesters were upset families have to fork out extra money on tutoring because of the poor quality of teaching.
“I spend so much for my daughter’s tutoring fees and need to enrol her in a faraway school so that she could get a good education. It should not be like this,” said Supaporn Pratumrat, 41, who attended the rally with her daughter.
Izzy 18, went to the United States (US) on an student exchange last year and said students there were able to have fun and pursue their hobbies after school but many Thai students don’t have that luxury.
“In Thailand some students go to extra classes from 4pm to 9pm,” he told AFP.