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: February 08, 2015

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Thammasat University

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Thailand

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 8, 2015, plainclothes police officers reportedly entered a Bangkok stadium where a soccer match between Chulalongkorn and Thammasat Universities was being played, blocked students from entering, and seized banners bearing political messages. 
The annual match between the two universities, and a related parade, has traditionally been seen as an opportunity for students, through banners and floats, to publicly satirize Thai politicians.  In advance of the 2015 match, however, the military government reportedly circulated warnings against the actions that might “fan social discontent.” A government spokesman claimed that, while authorities did not intend to censor the students’ expression, they hoped to avoid any messages that could lead to “unpleasant consequences.”
Authorities reportedly sought to inspect all of the banners, and requested explanations of the meanings of the floats, before they were allowed to enter the stadium.  Police reportedly confiscated the majority of the banners in advance.  When students entered, however, they revealed a number of hidden banners bearing explicitly political messages, which the police quickly seized. 
Scholars at Risk is concerned about state attempts to intervene in peaceful student events, or to otherwise limit political expression among student groups – 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. State actions limiting students’ rights to free political expression have a chilling effect on academic freedom and university autonomy, and undermine democratic society generally.