SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: September 23, 2014

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Chiang Mai University

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Thailand

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 23, 2014, Chiang Mai University announced that it had decided to cancel or postpone a symposium scheduled for Thursday, September 25, titled “Happiness and Reconciliation under 2014 Provisional Charter,” after Thailand’s ruling military government reportedly expressed concerns that the event would involve discussions of Thai politics.
According to a military spokesman, the government was concerned about allowing the event to go forward because one of the scheduled speakers, Ekachai Chainuvati, deputy dean of Siam University’s law faculty, has political connections, and his presence at the event could lead to mass mobilization.  The military spokesman claimed that the country is not ready for political discussions and their potential repercussions.  Chiang Mai University reportedly agreed to comply with the government’s request, pledging to submit a letter to the National Council for Peace and Order, formally requesting permission to hold the event, before proceeding.
This incident follows similar interventions by Thai authorities.  The previous week, police and military personnel cut short a forum at Thammasat University, and took into custody and briefly detained seven professors and students who had organized the event.  For more information, see this link.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about state attempts to cancel or intervene in peaceful on-campus events, or to otherwise limit academic or political expression or freedom of association on campus – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with such activities, so long as they are undertaken peacefully and responsibly.  In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, state actions limiting the rights to free academic expression or association on campus have a chilling effect on academic freedom and university autonomy, and undermine democratic society generally.