3,000 gather at CMU for students with arrest warrants

 | Tue 20 Oct 2020 17:34 ICT

Chiang Mai’s pro-democracy protest numbers are growing quickly. For the fourth night in a row, Chiang Mai University students have rallied. Each night of protesting has seen higher attendance turnout than the last.

Word-of-mouth via social media platforms such as Facebook are behind the upward trend in participation. Community of MorChor, the group responsible for the organisation and planning of the growing protests, has a Facebook page that boasts over 30,000 followers. The group is a collective of multiple activist students from various CMU faculties. MorChor is dedicated to the pro-democracy movement happening across Thailand.

At about an hour before 3pm Sunday night, MorChor announced a flash mob would be occurring at CMU. Student’s began gathering in front of the Social Science building and by around 4:30pm around 1,000 people had gathered with some holding protest signs and waving pro-democracy flags. The students cheered as the dean of CMU had a meeting on the second floor.

“The reason why the starting location for the demonstration was the “Yutthasat Building” is because it is the office of the administrators of Chiang Mai University, “said one MorChor organizer. “We are here in order to follow up on the answers to those questions we asked earlier on 15th. We would like the university to speak up about the position of the public as well as the students, about how the law is being used to prosecute CMU students despite the fact that they are simply exercising their freedom in a democratic, peaceful, and non-violent way.”

Around 5pm, three MorChor students who had recently been issued arrest warrants by local police arrived; Watcharapat Thammajak (Faculty of Law), Thanatorn Vitayabenjang (Faculty of Humanities) and Vitthaya Klangnil (Faculty of Philosophy). All three said they had been told they were in violation of Section 116, a Thai sedition criminal code. The students were told that due to their recent public speeches, arrest warrants had been ordered earlier in the week. The students said their goal was to encourage the police to arrest them publicly.

When asked if they were scared of going to jail, Thanatoern said, “No, I am not scared to go to jail because I believe that the people who are protesting today will come replace me if I disappear. People will still protest about democracy even without me. I’m not scared and I believe that I am doing the right thing.”

As the three wanted students climbed aboard a pickup truck mounted with speakers, the growing crowd lined up behind them, protest signs and flags in hand. As the truck began driving through CMU’s campus, joggers, maintenance workers and pedestrians cheered them on. They marched to Sala Dhamma, a large pool and fountain that meets at a three way intersection near the Huay Kaew Road entrance.

The truck full of the three students parked in front of the large fountain as they were greeted by a few more hundred student protesters. Students filled the area as they sat on railings, in between bushes and scattered amongst the grassy areas. The students unmounted and a table and microphone were set up for speeches.

As MorChor and the three students gave speeches and sang songs, a certain tension filled the air. It was uncertain as to whether or not the police would arrive and arrest the young men. Unarmed student MorChor guards with orange armbands dotted the perimeter and kept watch. Hundreds more students filled Sala Dhamma as night arrived and the street lights were turned on.

“It’s not right that the government is going to arrest me for doing something that isn’t illlegal, “said Thanatorn about his possible arrest, “I think the government is the one that is guilty and they are invading human rights.” The three kept close to the truck as speeches continued into the evening.

By around 7pm, the crowd grew to over 3,000. One of the main entrance roads was closed due to attendees standing and sitting. At 9pm, the three wanted students took the microphone. They each gave speeches about their personal desires for government changes in Thailand. After each of them spoke, the students instructed the sea of attendees to part. Students split to each side of the clogged road. MorChor organisers presented buckets of red paint and placed them down the center lane of the newly opened alley leading down to the main entrance.

Thanatorn, Watcharapat and Vitthaya then each took turns welcoming the police to arrest them. They asked the police to walk down the alley and take them away as the crowd cheered them on with encouragement.

In a final act of demonstration toward authorities, the three young men dipped their hands in a red paint bucket and smeared the paint on their bodies representing blood. Attendees then followed suit as they took handfuls of paint and covered their clothing and friends.

The demonstration ended at around 10pm as the crowd lifted their cell phones flashlights in the air in song. The three MorChor members were ultimately never arrested.

MorChor’s continued acts of demonstration will continue and the group expects their highest number of attendance yet at upcoming events. More popup rallies are planned for the coming days.

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