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: November 11, 2015

Attack Types: Prosecution

Institution(s):Burapha University | Chiang Mai University | Khon Kaen University | Thaksin University

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Thailand

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 11, 2015, a group of Thai professors was reportedly summoned on criminal charges in connection with their participation in a public gathering, which included affirmation of democratic values including academic freedom, transparency and the rule of law. 
On October 31, 2015, this group of professors gathered in Chiang Mai University, where they publicly issued and read a statement titled “Universities Are Not Military Camps.”  The professors’ statement affirms the importance, within the higher education space, of intellectual freedom, exposure to diverse viewpoints, and reasoned, respectful debate.  The professors charged include: Dr. Attachak Sattayanurak, a professor of history at Chiang Mai University; Dr. Somchai Preechasilpakul, an associate professor of constitutional law at  Chiang Mai University; Dr. Booncherd Nuim, an assistant professor of sociology at Burapha University; Professor Jaroon Yoothong, of the Institute for Southern Thai Studies at Thaksin University; Professor Mana Nakham of the Division of Social Development, Khon Kaen University; and Dr. Nathapong Chitniratna, an assistant professor of humanities and social sciences at Thaksin University. 
On November 11, 2015, members of the group of professors who issued the letter reportedly received a summons, ordering that they appear at Chang Puak Police Station at 9:00 am on November 24, 2015. The summons reportedly indicated that, in connection with the October 31, 2015 gathering, the scholars face charges of violating National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 7/2014, which prohibits political gatherings of five or more persons. If found guilty, they could face up to one year in jail, and a fine of up to 20,000 baht.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution of scholars in retaliation for 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 has acceded. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with scholars’ expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Prosecution aimed at limiting such expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.