On February 26, 2017, Mahidol University announced an administrative investigation and possible disciplinary actions against faculty members of the university’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP), in response to a statement they issued the previous day condemning the degree of power held by the National Council for Peace and Order (the military junta which took power in Thailand in a 2014 coup).
The IHRP’s statement alleged that the junta engage in sweeping, unjustified arrests, under color of a provision in Thailand’s 2014 Interim Constitution which the statement’s authors argue is legally illegitimate.
Mahidol University issued an unsigned statement the day after the IHRP’s letter was released, alleging that the IHRP’s statement was damaging to the university’s reputation and used its name without permission. As a result, Mahidol University announced that the staff members responsible for the IHRP’s statement would face investigation and disciplinary action.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about investigation and disciplinary action taken against university faculty members in retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally. Universities have a responsibility to refrain from wrongful investigation and disciplinary action taken against academics for exercising their right to academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association.