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Occupy Central

Thai activist invites Hong Kong’s Joshua Wong to address Bangkok students

Democracy campaigner from Thailand hopes university speech will inspire young to speak up under military regime

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 October, 2016, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 2016, 1:54am

A Thai pro-democracy activist is hoping Joshua Wong Chi-fung, an Occupy leader and founder of political party Demosisto, will inspire young people to raise their voices in his military-ruled country.

Netiwit Chotipatpaisal, a 20-year-old political ­science student, believes Thailand may see an ­Occupy-like movement in a few years’ time and has invited Wong to speak in Bangkok.

Wong is due to address the faculty of political ­science at Chulalongkorn University on Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of a deadly government crackdown on student protesters.

“He has inspired me very much. Joshua is a ­normal student as I am, but he dares to speak the truth unlike others ... It’s very important to have him here,” Netiwit told the Sunday Morning Post.

“Joshua doesn’t leave his students and blame them; instead he organises actions. He knows what has to be done,” said the young activist, who travelled to Hong Kong to extend his invitation.

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Wong, 19, is expected to share with Thai students what he experienced during Occupy, a 74-day street protest that ­became known as the umbrella movement in 2014. “As Nathan Law Kwun-chung [of ­Demosisto] has become the youngest lawmaker, I expect more young people will care about politics,” Wong said.

Netiwit said a movement similar to Occupy, which called for “genuine universal suffrage”, may take place in Thailand in the near future.

“It could happen, the seeds are cultivated ... Maybe not this year or in two years. We have some ­contextual problems ... But it will come if we carry on hoping and learning from our friends, such as from Hong Kong,” he said.

The military, which grabbed power in Thailand in 2014, had promised to return power to civilian ­leaders and hold parliamentary elections next year. But in August, a new constitution was approved in a referendum, extending the influence of the military and reducing the powers of political parties.

Despite the different political contexts, Netiwit said Hong Kong and Thailand have many things in common. “Teenagers are the same. We were born in a consumerist society and we have deep problems in our education systems,” he said. “Another aspect is that we feel those who are older and the government don’t treat us as equals.”

Netiwit has been involved in several campaigns and groups pushing for reform of the Thai education system. He is now planning to follow in the footsteps of Wong and launch a party.

“I am learning from Demosisto. We have to fight from inside and outside the system,” he said.