Note: On 29 April, a university professor was arrested as part of a sweep of six individuals accused of committing lèse majesté by posting to Facebook. He has been denied bail, as most are in these cases. Last week, Yukti Mukdawijitra, an anthropology professor at Thammasat University went to visit him. What follows are his reflections on their conversation, which was first published in Thai in his usual blog column for Prachatai.—trans.
Note: Jit Phumisak (25 September 1930 – 5 May 1966) was one of the foremost Thai Marxism thinkers of the twentieth century. His most well-known work, The Real Face of Thai Feudalism, was published while he was still a student in the Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn University in 1957. The Real Face, which was later translated into English by Craig Reynolds, offered an analysis of feudalism and its remnants in Thai society, politics, and law. The volume was swiftly banned and he was arrested later that year and accused of being a communist.
Yukti Mukdawijitra is one of the dissidents who fled the country right after the coup. The Thammasat anthropologist said his role as an anti-coup, pro-democracy activist and campaigner against Article 112 or the lèse majesté law made him feel it was unsafe to stay in the country. Yukti, who is now a fellow at U of Wisconsin at Madison discusses the junta’s campaign to crack down on lèse majesté and the outlook for the country after the coup.
In “Red Shirt Academic,” Yukti Mukdawijitra, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology at Thammasat University, tells his own story of growing involved in struggling for accountability, freedom and human rights in the years since the 19 September 2006 coup. Simultaneously, he tracks the discomfort this has caused among his colleagues and others in Thai society who would prefer that he and others were less active. They call him a “red shirt academic,” a title he comes to embrace.