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: October 07, 2015

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Ratchabhat University (Chiang Rai)

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Thailand

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 7, 2015, students from Ratchapat University in Chiang Rai province were summoned to a military base and interrogated, one day after they held an on-campus event commemorating the 6 October 1976 massacre, during which dozens of student protesters were killed on the campus of Thammasat University in Bangkok. 

A group of ten Ratchapat University students had organized the commemoration, which displayed posters with information and photographs of the massacre, and invited students to share their opinions and ideas on post-it notes attached to the posters.
On the evening of 6 October 2015, soldiers from the 37th Army Division in Chiang Rai reportedly contacted university staff and, through them, summoned students who organized the event  to the military base for a meeting the following day. Two students, Thichanon Pitakpracha and Somchai Kuwattanasakul, agreed to go to the base as representatives of the group.
The students, along with a faculty advisor, went to the base the next day, and were reportedly questioned for approximately one hour, with the deputy commander of the base, as well as several other military officers and one policeman present.
According to reports, the military alleged that some of the post-it notes made during the event contained messages that constituted political incitement. The students were interrogated about why they organized the event and whether they were connected to student groups in other parts of the country. They were released with a warning that the military would continue to monitor their activities.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary interrogation of student activists, apparently as a result of nonviolent expression and association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. State officials have a responsibility not to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression and association, so long as such rights are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Interrogation aimed at limiting expression and association undermine academic freedom and related values including university autonomy. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression and freedom of association.