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: October 15, 2021

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Chiang Mai University

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Thailand

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 15, 2021, Chiang Mai University faculty and administration reportedly prohibited students from exhibiting their theses in the University Art Centre on the grounds that some pieces dealt with social and political themes.

The university’s Media Arts and Design Department required that fourth year students publicly exhibit their final theses; however, after determining that some of the work involved political or social themes, the university administration refused to permit the students to use the University Art Centre for that purpose, effectively denying them the ability to meet a program requirement. After learning of the decision, students occupied the Art Centre; in response, the university reportedly cut off the Art Centre’s water and electricity. 

On October 18, 2021, students sought a temporary injunction before the Chiang Mai Administrative Court, requiring the university to allow them to exhibit their work, on the grounds that their inability to exhibit their work would result in failure of the class. In early November, 2021, the court granted the students’ request for an injunction. The students also filed a petition with the Chiang Mai University Council and government education bodies demanding that university principle Dr Niwet Nantajit and Faculty of Fine Arts dean Asawinee Wanjing be removed from office for the decision to prevent the exhibition from going forward, on the grounds that it violated the students’ academic freedom. 

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the denial of the right of students to free expression on campus, including exhibiting work as part of an academic course. University authorities must refrain from taking actions that inhibit academic freedom, including the refusal to permit on campus expression based on political or social content.