Academic Conference Delegates Charged with Violating Thai Junta's Ban on Political Gatherings

Updated: Apr 29, 2019

On August 21, 2017, Endangered Scholars Worldwide learned that Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, the director of the Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development at Chiang Mai University who organized an international conference on Thai studies, has, along with four other Thai academics, been charged with violating the country’s military junta's ban on political gatherings of more than four people.

Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, who faces up to one year in prison if convicted, is scheduled to report to police in Chiang Mai province on August 23, 2017. Four conference attendees–Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai, and Thiramon Bua-ngam–have been charged the same offense for holding posters that said, "An academic forum is not a military barrack," in order to protest the military’s surveillance of participants during the conference. None, however, are currently in custody.

A report on University World News said the charges were announced on August 14, a month after the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies, which was held July 15-18 at Chiang Mai University in Northern Thailand.

The conference has been held every three years since 1981, sometimes hosted at universities outside Thailand, and it is the first time the event has experienced interference from Thai authorities.

According to the local news [link], the Deputy Commander Col Suebsakul Buarawong of the 33rd Military Circle of Chiang Mai filed the charges, accusing the five academics of violating the junta’s order number 3/2015. The order stated charges could be dropped if the accused agree to undergo an "attitude adjustment" course.

All denied the charges, and police have not decided whether to forward them to prosecutors.