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: June 25, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Thammasat University

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Thailand

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On June 25, 2017, Thai authorities reportedly arrested prominent student-activist Rangsiman Rome on charges related to his efforts to organize a campaign against the 2016 draft constitutional charter.

Authorities approached Rome outside the Bangkok City Library at around 4:30 pm on June 25 and presented him with an arrest warrant. The year-old charges stemmed from his arrest on June 23, 2016, along with 12 other activists, under laws that criminalized campaigning against the draft constitution before the referendum on it in August, 2016, and prohibited political gatherings of more than 5 people (see report).

After his 2016 arrest, Rome was detained for two weeks, and then released unconditionally.  He says he was unaware of any outstanding charges in that case. Rome told reporters he believes his June 25, 2017 arrest occurred because of his plans to petition the junta the following day to release information about a deal it struck with China to build a high-speed rail connection between Bangkok and Korat. Rome was also scheduled to speak at an event the evening of June 25 celebrating the democratic revolution of 1932. Other activists commemorating the transition from absolute to constitutional monarchy were reportedly arrested or harassed over the weekend.
On June 26, Rome appeared before the military court, where he was additionally charged with violating the political gathering ban at an event in 2015 that marked the one-year anniversary of the junta’s assumption of power. The military court released Rome on bail, on the conditions that he remain in the country and refrain from political organizing.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest and prosecution of a student 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 and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.