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 along with four other Thai academics, who were delegates at the conference, have been charged with violating the country’s military junta’s ban on political gatherings of more than four people.
Professor 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 for the same offense for holding posters saying, “An academic forum is not a military barrack” to protest the military’s surveillance of participants during the July 15-18 conference. None are currently in custody.
A report on University World News said the charges were announced on 14 August, a month after the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies, which was held, 15-18 July, at Chiang Mai University in northern Thailand.
The conference has been held every three years since 1981, including at universities outside Thailand. It is the first time the event has experienced interference from the Thai authorities.
According to the local news [link] the deputy commander of the 33rd Military Circle of Chiang Mai, Col Suebsakul Buarawong, 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 the charges to prosecutors.
In a joint statement, 176 Thai and foreign academics have called on the junta to give people back the freedom to express opinions without fear of punishment or reprisal. They wanted full and free access to information and facts, and said prisoners of conscience jailed for their religious, political or other views should be released from jail.
At least 157 planned civil and academic gatherings and activities in Thailand have been intervened in or prohibited by the National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta is known, according to iLaw, a civil society group that monitors law-making and law enforcement.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide believes that Junta’s ban is used to silence political activists. Endangered Scholars Worldwide is concerned over the summons of the Thai academics in connection with their attendance at the International Conference on Thai Studies and calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to strongly protest and condemn this summon. ESW urges the officials of the Thai government to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of human rights as specified in international conventions and treaties and urge the Thai authorities to drop any charges against the accused arising out of the non-violent exercise of the rights to expression, association, and assembly.