Thai social media 'wakes up' with students' arrest

Two days after 14 anti-coup students were arrested, Sarawut "Roundfinger" Hengsawad's post went viral, injecting a lot of energy in Thai social media again.

The words "We are Friends", which were printed on the students' shirts, was used as the title of his post, inspiring other supporters to also use the hastag #WeAreFriends.

@panparnpaan tweeted: I think the post #WeAreFriends by @roundfinger is so effective.

@plutonian_jr: Normally I don't feel anything for @roundfinger, but I just read his article about the "Dao Din" group and began to like him.

In his post, Roundfinger reminds readers of how Dao Din group helped and protected villagers in Loei province in their fight against mining operations. He also praised the Khon Kaen University students for caring about social issues and standing up to fight, unlike most young people nowadays.

"The arrest of the Dao Din students is depressing, not just because they were arrested for fighting for justice, but also because this will create fear among those who wish well for society," he wrote.

@hokkamain wrote: I like this sentence by Roundfinger: "It seems like everything is fine just because we don't hear or pay no attention to other people's cries."

Apart from Roundfinger's post, other campaigns supporting the 14 students, such as the collection of sticky notes organised yesterday near the National Stadium BTS station by the Resistant Citizen group were also heavily promoted on social media.

On Facebook, Sarinee Achavanuntakul launched a petition via change.org calling on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to release the students unconditionally. She also shared a clip from a Thai PBS scoop on the background of the New Democracy group, whose members were among those arrested.

Preeya Luck posted a picture of a hand-written message: "You are love, you are courage, you are hope. To Dao Din and the New Democracy group."

Sirinart Sirisuntorn changed her profile picture to the message: "Rights and freedom of thoughts is not a crime. Free the students unconditionally."

Tomorn Sookprecha wrote a poem expressing his distress over the arrests.

Phra Paisal Visalo, himself a student activist four decades ago, wrote: "One day people will understand what you did, or at least understand that jail should not be used to detain people with different opinions.

"Please remember that the power of fighting peacefully is winning people's hearts with love and patience as well as being ready to endure pain without violence or hatred. This is the power of change - it is more powerful than weapons or uncivilised power."

In his post, Noppanan Arunvongse na Ayudhaya wrote that though he had nothing to do with the detained students, he wanted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to revoke all charges against them as they may have been used as a political tool.

"[The petition is] for the country's future and national reconciliation," he wrote.

However, a counter-argument posted on Facebook by Warat Karuchit one day after Roundfinger's post also went viral.

In the post Warat said Roundfinger was "missing the point" as Dao Din students had been arrested because of their political activities, not because of their fight against the gold-mining operation. He also said that Roundfinger had failed to recognise the fact that many other students and lecturers also cared for and contributed to society. Hence, he said, Roundfinger should not generalise and label everybody as being self-serving.

Over the week, some social media users have also decided to taken an opposing stand and criticise the detained students.

Suvinai Pornavalai wrote: "Now there is a page called 'Students in support of Uncle Tu' in opposition to Dao Din, while the New Democracy-BACC is challenging the NCPO. There are many confrontations on social media. Let's watch matters closely and see if it starts a wildfire."

Apart from the 14 students, the other story on social media was the one related to Siam Commercial Bank (SCB)'s advertisement, which created quite an uproar, as it said that only applicants from 14 top universities would be considered. This drew strong criticism on social media, with users voicing their opinions on the bank's conduct and education standards.

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