Thammasat University fires lèse majesté critic Somsak Jeam

Thammasat University has sacked the renowned embattled lèse majesté critic Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who has been in self-imposed exile since the 2014 May coup, due to his absence.  

Somkit Lertpaithoon, the Rector of Thammasat University and a member of the junta’s National Legislative Assembly, on Monday signed an order to end the civil service employment of Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a history lecturer in the Faculty of Liberal Arts, as a punishment for his absence from the university for about nine months.

Somsak, 56, has been very active in criticizing Article 112 (the lèse majesté law) and encouraging reform of the institution of the monarchy. He himself faced a lèse majesté charge filed by the Army and faced countless acts of intimidation, including gunfire at his house. After Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha overthrew the government on 22 May 2014, the historian fled the country and is now in self-imposed exile in Europe. Somsak is also an expert on the killing of King Ananda.

The order mentions that Somsak requested an absence from 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015 to pursue additional academic activities overseas, which is possible according to the university’s rules. However, the university did not grant him the request and demanded that he come back by December 2014 and teach the second semester of the 2014 academic year.

After he was informed that his request was not granted, Somsak submitted a resignation letter to the university in late December 2014.

Somsak said on his Facebook page that the implication of being dismissed rather than voluntarily resigning is that the latter would allow him to enjoy a pension after teaching at Thammasat for 20 years.

Posters of missing persons to find Somsak Jeam at the Social Science Building at Thammasat University, the poster at the top right says “Missing Person: Somsak Jeamteerasakul, 56, disappeared since the coup-makers stole the people’s power, from the university that pays only lip service to freedom.”    

The order also pointed out that Somsak was guilty of misconduct according to Article 39 of the 2004 Tertiary Education Civil Servants Act and Article 55 (6) of the Thammasat University charter. Therefore, the University decided to terminate his employment and form a committee to investigate the matter.

On Tuesday, Somsak posted on his Facebook page that he thinks it is his duty as a civil servant and as a member of Thammasat University not to comply with the coup-maker’s orders. The post was part of the statement which was submitted to the university administration earlier this month.

“I cannot continue to serve in my post and allow the staging of an unjustified rebellion. I consider that the highest duty that a citizen and civil servant or “a Thammasat person” can have is to resist the unlawful actions of the coup makers,” said the statement.

He pointed out in the statement that the military sent personnel to harass his family members for months and revoked his passport after he refused to cooperate with the junta.

Somsak added that since the coup, the junta has used the lèse majesté law to arrest an average of three people per month.

In 2011, the Army filed a lèse majesté complaint against Somsak for making references to Princess Chulabhorn Walailak, although according to Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the Princess is not protected by the lèse majesté law.     

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