End political prosecutions: Thai Academics for Civil Rights

Thai academics have kicked off an online campaign, demanding that the junta ‘unconditionally’ end the persecution of political dissidents.

A group of academics calling themselves Thai Academics for Civil Rights (TACR) has started an online campaign on Change.org titled ‘Universities are Not Military Barracks, the Country is Not a Concentration Camp’ to collect names calling for an end to human rights violations by the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and university heads.

Many rights advocates and political groups, such as Chulalongkorn Community for the People (CCP), the ANTI-SOTUS group, the Pattani Forum and the New Democracy Movement (NDM), have supported the campaign.

TACR state in the campaign that since the beginning the junta assumed power through illegitimate means, which violated the constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a state party.

The summonses, acts of intimidation and prosecutions of people who do not share the political views of the regime are ‘illegitimate’ and ‘unconstitutional’.

The group said that the junta must stop summoning people for so-called ‘attitude adjustment’ sessions and should instead learn how to ‘exchange ideas’ in democratic ways.     

“The military government and the NCPO must return power to the people and stop drafting a constitution with hidden agendas to create unjust conditions via an unacceptable constitutional drafting process in order to prolong its rule. The military government must accept the fact that after a year, people have realised that the military government does not have capability,” said the TACR campaign statement.

Last month, the military charged at least six embattled academics for violating NCPO Order No. 3/2015, a ban on political gatherings of five or more persons.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that the Commander of the 33rd Army Division ordered Lt Col Apichat Kantawong to file a complaint against eight academics after some of them participated in a briefing on 31 October 2015 at Chiang Mai University to read out a statement titled ‘Universities are not military barracks’ which called for academic freedom.

If found guilty the academics could be jailed for up to one year and fined up to 20,000 baht.

Many Thai and foreign academics have condemned the Thai authorities over the charge.

According to Prachatham News, Glyn T. Davies, the current US Ambassador to Thailand, expressed concern about academic freedom in Thailand at the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Chiang Mai on 20 November 2015.

“We are concerned about the summons issued against academics. Freedom of expression and of assembly will make Thailand stronger. When people can talk, express opinions, and reap the benefits from that, it will have an effect on the future of the country,” Prachatham quoted the American ambassador as saying.

On 24 November 2014, when pressed by the media about the charges against the lecturers, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, said “Their activities, if they are not afraid of the law, it’s up to them. If people follow these activities, they will be in trouble. Well, it’s up to them. Some might find guns or bombs to attack them. It’s up to them, but I won’t do that of course.”