Thai schoolchildren protest government, demand reform

© Reuters. Anti-government demonstration in Bangkok

By Matthew Tostevin and Petra Mahira

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thousands of people joined a protest led by Bangkok high school students on Saturday to call for education reforms as well as demands from a wider movement to suppress the government and cut back the powers of the monarchy.

It was the first major protest since Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Thursday that police would use all laws against protesters, which have become the establishment’s biggest challenge in years.

Police said the Bad Student group protest may continue, although two of its teenage leaders were summoned on Friday on charges related to a previous protest.

“We are here to demand the freedom that has been taken from us as well as educational reforms,” ​​said Mameaw, 18, a high school student, who declined to give her full name. “We want a real constitutional monarchy.”

The protests since July have three main demands: the removal of former junta leader Prayuth as prime minister, a new constitution and reforms of the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

But high school students are also seeking greater freedom and fairer treatment in an education system they deem archaic and aimed primarily at instilling obedience. Many have spoken of the importance of gender equality.

“I was sexually abused by teachers. School is not a safe place, ”said a sign held by a student who sat in a uniform with her mouth closed in protest.

One of the hashtags used by the Bad Student group on Saturday translates to #ByeByeDinosaurs.

Government spokeswoman Anucha Burapachaisri said the prime minister hoped the protesters would exercise their freedom constructively and within the law.

Prayuth rejected the protesters’ demand to resign and their accusations that he organized last year’s elections to retain power he first seized from an elected government in 2014. The Royal Palace did has made no comment since the protests began in July.

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