On September 26, 2016, Thai authorities issued summons for five individuals who participated in a July 31 referendum talk at Khon Kaen University (KKU). They are accused of violating NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which bans political gatherings of five or more people.
Thailand’s New Democracy Movement (NDM), a student-led group, organized the event at KKU entitled “Talk for Freedom: Constitution and Isaan People,” during which students and activists discussed the Thai Junta’s draft constitution. The Dean of KKU’s Faculty of Agriculture reportedly attempted to prevent the group from holding the event due to its political nature. KKU administrators and the Election Commission of Thailand also responded to the event by filing a complaint to the police that accused the participants of “trespassing into a public building without permission” and violating the 2015 Public Referendum Act.
On September 26, authorities issued summonses for Panwadee Tantisirin, a lecturer in the Nursing Faculty of KKU; Rangsiman Rome, a student-activist and member of NDM; Panupong Sritananuwat, a student-activist and member of the Dao Din Group; Cherdchai Tantisirin, former Member of Parliament for the Pheu Thai Party; and another person who requested anonymity. On October 4, four of the individuals given summons along with four others previously summoned in connection to the same demonstration reported to the Khon Kaen Provincial Police Station, where they heard the charges and were ordered to appear at the Khon Kaen Prosecutor’s office on November 16. Mr. Rome reportedly refused to report to the police and has stated that he will not attend other legal proceedings connected to the demonstration. A total of 11 individuals have been summoned in connection to the July 31 demonstration.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the initiation of criminal proceedings in retaliation for peaceful, on-campus 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. Prosecutions aimed at limiting expression and association undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression, freedom of association, due process and fair trial.