Thais boycott Deputy PM

A group of Thai students have decided to boycott a visit to the University by the Thai Deputy Prime Minister, Pongthep Thepkanchana, because of his support for the divisive Amnesty bill.

The lunch meeting with Thepkanchana, scheduled for 30th November, will not be attended by these students, though they will not protest during his time here.

In an open letter addressed to him, the students condemned the allegedly unconstitutional actions of the current government and in particular, the Amnesty Bill proposed earlier this year.

The Amnesty Bill, which was passed in the Thai House of Representatives on 1st November of this year, would pardon most of those facing charges from the period of political upheaval in Thailand beginning in 2004. Specifically, it would pave the way for Thaksin Shinawatra, the Prime Minister’s eldest brother, to be granted amnesty for various charges, and to have his vast wealth restored.

Among other things, the bill, which was controversial has sparked public demonstrations of protest in Thailand, most recently involving protestors storming and occupying several government buildings including the finance ministry. The protestors, led by the opposing Democrat party, have accused the Prime Minister of acting as a puppet for her brother.

In response to the news that Pongthep Thepkanchana, a consistent supporter of the bill at “every stage of its parliamentary process”, was going to be at a talk in Oxford, co-ordinated by the Oxford Thai Society, a group of Thai students at the University penned an open letter expressing their wish not to be associated with him.

The group, who stressed that they were “not representative of all the Thai students in Oxford” stated in the letter that they “do not wish to have any involvement with [his] coming visit to Oxford – an involvement which could be interpreted as lending support for the government and the Bill”.

The letter goes on to claim that the “current government, including current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and [Thepkanchana], have not corrected nor shown remorse for any of the injustice stated here and, moreover, have chosen to astonishingly ignore the protests of hundred of thousands who opposed their actions”, resolving to boycott the event originally planned by the Office of Educational Affairs.

Thaya Uthayophas, a third-year visiting student from Brown University and member of the Oxford Thai Society, signed the letter “in the name of Oxford Thai students who oppose the Amnesty Bill”.

Uthayophas commented that he found it “hard to imagine that the organization were not aware of the divisive nature of his appearance”, but that he believed the decision to boycott “has been well  received by the majority of Thai students at the University of Oxford and also some other members of the Thai community of Oxford and the UK.”