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: March 16, 2017

Attack Types: Prosecution

Institution(s):Khon Kaen University | Ramkhamhaeng University

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Thailand

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March, 16, 2017, a Thai court charged seven student activists with “contempt of court” in connection with a February 10, 2017 demonstration in support of detained student-activist Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa. 

Mr. Boonpattararaksa, a Khon Kaen University (KKU) law student, was arrested and charged with lèse majesté on December 3, 2016, after sharing a BBC article about the new Thai king over Facebook (see report). He has been repeatedly denied bail and remains in custody, awaiting his next hearing.  On February 10, 2017, a group of students from KKU and Ramkhamhaeng University organized a peaceful demonstration in front of the Khon Kaen court to express solidarity with Mr. Boonpattararaksa and to call for his release. The demonstration included music, chants, and students holding signs and masks depicting Mr. Boonpattararaksa’s face.

On March 16, seven students who participated in the demonstration were served with summonses to face contempt of court charges in connection with the demonstration. The students reportedly attended a hearing at Khon Kaen Court on April 24. As of this report, the results of that hearing have not been made public.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution of students in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association — conduct which is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression and association, so long as they are exercised peacefully. Prosecutions aimed at limiting student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression, due process, and fair trial.