Uni mockery not banned, says NCPO
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) insisted yesterday it has not banned political mockery during today's Chulalongkorn-Thammasat football match.
Political mockery by supporters has become a tradition at the annual match between the two rival institutions.
NCPO spokesman Col Winthai Suvaree said yesterday both organisers and the military had agreed that care should be taken over the mockery so that it is not exploited by some people wanting to spark new conflicts in society.
"Officials are not prohibiting the activity," Col Winthai said, referring to a student procession that makes fun of politics, which is one of the main features of the decades-old football match between Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities.
The precautionary approach that reflects what students think of the government came after the universities and soldiers jointly agreed that mocking is a "sensitive issue in this current situation", he said.
The traditional match, which is held each year at the National Stadium, was cancelled last year as the venue was not far from the rally sites of anti-Thaksin demonstrators who, during their months-long protest against his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra's government, encountered many violent incidents.
This year, organisers had to ask permission from the NCPO to stage the match as it draws more than five people for a mass outdoor gathering.
"I have to admit I've been worrying this last month during preparations for the game," said Wachiravic Kongkaria, chairman of Thammasat's political mockery group.
However, after a meeting with military officers, the organisers were told the game could go ahead.
Mr Wachiravic does not see the limits set as restricting the right of expression. The present situation is not a time for people to fully air their opinions, he said.
"We understand the NCPO," said Suppanutt Yimkiattiwong, Thammasat Cheer Club's deputy chief for special affairs.
"Students want to continue the tradition and want to see it go smoothly."
Chulalongkorn University rector Pirom Kamolratanakul also insisted the NCPO did not order the university to cancel political mockery at the football match, but asked for cooperation in ensuring the event takes place without incident.
"The NCPO respects our annual traditional event where a political mockery parade is staged.
"The country has not yet returned fully to peace, so we were asked to be more careful as there is a high possibility someone might distort messages or use this situation to cause conflict.
"We don't prohibit students from presenting their views, but we urge them to proceed with this event with caution," he said.