Canada

Protesting Thai students boycott royal graduation day

Protests initially called for a new constitution and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader, but then demands evolved to include reducing the monarchy’s power.

It was unclear how many Thammasat students would follow the boycott.

Papangkorn Asavapanichakul, 24, said he would attend.

“I want the photograph. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event,” he said.

Degree ceremonies presided over by the king began before the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 at a time the palace sought to strengthen its relationship with a growing middle class.

They gained greater importance under the king’s late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who spent decades working to strengthen the prestige of the monarchy – which according to the constitution must be revered.

Protesters say the king’s powers should be reduced and changes that gave him personal control of some army units and the palace fortune should be reversed. They also want the prime minister removed, accusing him of foul play in 2019 elections – an accusation he denies.

Of those students planning to attend the ceremonies, some said family pressure had outweighed politics.

“My mother asked me to come,” said one 24-year-old student who gave his name only as Japan. “I didn’t really want to join it, honestly.” (Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsaarng and Jit Phokaew; Writing by Matthew Tostevin Editing by Robert Birsel)

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