Thailand: Drop Case Against Peaceful Conference Attendees

Posted June 27, 2018

Scholars at Risk has issued an appeal to Thai authorities on behalf of a group of five scholars and students facing potential prosecution in connection with their attendance at the 2017 International Conference on Thai Studies.

In August 2017, authorities summoned the scholars, students, and one independent intellectual to the Chang Phuak Police Station in Chiang Mai, and accused them of violating an order issued by the National Council for Peace and Order, No. 3/2558, which bans political gatherings of five or more persons. The accusation appears to relate to the attendees’ response to the heavy presence of police and military officers at the 2017 conferences; the accused reportedly displayed a banner that read, “An academic seminar is not a military base” (translated from Thai).

SAR urges the Thai authorities to drop any charges against the accused arising out of the non-violent exercise of the rights to expression, association, or academic freedom; and, pending this, to ensure that the case against them otherwise proceeds in a manner consistent with Thailand’s obligations under international law.


Via email to: opm@opm.go.th
Via fax to: +66 2282-5131

General Prayut Chan-ocha
Prime Minister of Thailand
Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit
Bangkok 10300, Thailand

June 26, 2018

Re: Drop case against peaceful academic conference attendees

Your Excellency:

I write again on behalf of the Scholars at Risk Network to express concern over the potential prosecution of a group of five scholars and students in connection with their attendance at the 2017 International Conference on Thai Studies. I respectfully urge you to direct the appropriate authorities to drop any charges against them, and, pending this, to ensure that the case against them otherwise proceeds in a manner consistent with Thailand’s obligations under international law.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of over 530 universities and colleges in 41 countries dedicated to promoting academic freedom and its constituent freedoms of thought, opinion, expression, association, and travel. In cases involving alleged infringement of these freedoms, Scholars at Risk intervenes in hopes of clarifying and resolving matters favorably.

As you are aware, in August 2017, Thai authorities summoned two professors, two students, and one independent intellectual to the Chang Phuak Police Station in Chiang Mai, and accused them of violating an order issued by the National Council for Peace and Order, No. 3/2558, which bans political gatherings of five or more persons. The accusation stems from their attendance at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies, held from July 15-18, 2017, in Chiang Mai, which brought together scholars from diverse fields to discuss a range of topics, including those related to Thailand’s military rule. Attendees at the 2017 conference reported a heavy presence of uniformed and plainclothes military and police; in response, the accused displayed a banner that read, “An academic seminar is not a military base” (translated from Thai). The accused include: Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, Associate Professor and Director, Regional Center for Sustainable Development, Chiang Mai University, and Organizer, 13th International Conference on Thai Studies; Chaipong Samnieng, Ph.D. Candidate and Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Chiang Mai University; Teeramon Buangam, M.A. Candidate, Faculty of Mass Communication, Chiang Mai University, and Editor, Prachaham News; Nontawat Machai, undergraduate student, Faculty of Mass Communication, Chiang Mai University; and Pakavadi Veerapaspong, independent writer and translator.

SAR understands that, after a series of postponements, the prosecutor overseeing this case has submitted a recommendation to indict the accused scholars, students, and intellectual. The accused are reportedly expected to appear in Chiang Mai District Court on July 4, 2018. If convicted, they would be subject to imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to 10,000 baht (roughly USD $300), or both.

We again welcome any additional information that may explain these events or clarify our understandings. Absent this, the facts as described suggest that these individuals are being subject to potential criminal prosecution as a result of the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and academic freedom – conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. Criminal investigations and prosecutions in connection with such activity raise serious concerns about protection for academic freedom, the higher education space, and democratic society generally in Thailand.

SAR therefore respectfully urges you to direct the appropriate authorities to drop any charges against the accused arising out of the non-violent exercise of the rights to expression, association, or academic freedom; and, pending this, to ensure that the case against them otherwise proceeds in a manner consistent with Thailand’s obligations under international law.

We appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Robert Quinn
Executive Director

cc:

The Honorable Don Pramudwinai
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sri Ayudhya Road
Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Email: minister@mfa.go.th
Fax: +66 2643-5320

Colonel Suebsakul Buarawong
Deputy Commander of the 33rd Military Circle
Kavila Camp, Wat Khet Sub-District
Muang District
Chiang Mai 50000, Thailand
Email: warroom.mtb33@gmail.com

The Honorable Khemchai Chutiwong
Attorney General
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex
Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road, Thoongsonghong, Laksi
Bangkok 10210, Thailand
Email: ag@ago.go.th
Fax: +66 2143-9546

The Honorable What Tingsamitr
Chairman of National Human Rights Commission
The Government Complex
Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road, Thoongsonghong, Laksi
Bangkok 10210, Thailand
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th

The Honorable Mike Pompeo
United States Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520, USA
Fax: +1 202-647-1579

The Honorable Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Email: InfoDesk@ohchr.org
Fax: +41 22-917-9220

The Honorable David Kaye
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Email: freedex@ohchr.org
Fax: +41 22-917-9006

The Honorable Clement Nyaletsossi Voule
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Email: freeassembly@ohchr.org
Fax: + 41 22-917-9006

Location Chiang Mai, Thailand
In Categories: Press Releases