Thai activists in Pinocchio masks call Prime Minister Prayuth a ‘liar’ after election date change

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 February, 2018, 5:27pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 February, 2018, 10:45pm

Pro-democracy activists at a protest in Thailand on Saturday wore cartoon masks they said were of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha with a long nose. They accused him of being a “liar” for delaying a general election promised this year.

The government has promised and postponed elections several times since it came to power following a coup in 2014, with the latest date set for November. The military-appointed legislature changed the election law last month, signalling another delay to early 2019.

That sparked a series of small protests that have gained momentum in recent weeks with gatherings in several provinces across Thailand.

On Saturday, about 300 people gathered at Bangkok’s Thammasat University, wearing and distributing paper masks vaguely resembling Prayuth with the long nose and rosy cheeks associated with Pinocchio, the fictional character whose nose grows when he lies.

One of the protesters, Sirawith Seritiwat, said the hybrid character was called “Yuth-nocchio”.

“Enough with the lies. Time’s up for dictatorship. It’s the people’s time now. We must vote this year,” Sirawith told the crowd.

The demonstrators also held up three fingers, which they said symbolised their demands in the slogan: “Elections must take place this year. Down with dictatorship. Long live democracy.”

Around 100 police officers were deployed at the university but they did not interfere with the event.

Officials have so far not commented on the latest protests, but last week a government spokesman said it was not concerned by the protests and would tell police to maintain peace and order.

Prayuth said earlier this week young activists should focus on their studies and “not think they have to change the country”.

Protests are planned for every Saturday in March and May in Bangkok and other provinces, with a larger gathering expected between May 19 and 22 to mark the four-year anniversary of the coup.

“We urge everyone in the country to come out and join us,” said Rangsiman Rome, another activist in Bangkok. “It’s time to take back our future. Prayuth … must go.”

Watana Muangsook, a member of the Puea Thai party which has won every election in the last decade, also came to Saturday’s gathering “to show support” for the activists.

“People have the right to demand elections,” Wattana said.

The government lodged a lawsuit last week against seven activists for inciting unrest and 43 protesters for an illegal gathering after a protest last month at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok that also involved hundreds of activists.