Two academics remain defiant against junta’s political gathering ban

Two of the six academics charged with violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings by organising a public talk remain defiant at the risk of receiving jail terms, saying that the junta order can longer be enacted.  

Attachak Sattayanurak and Somchai Preechasinlapakun, history and law lecturers from Chiang Mai University, at 2 pm on Thursday, 24 December 2015, submitted a document on allegations against them to Chang Puak Police Station in Mueang District of the northern province of Chiang Mai.

Two are among six lecturers charged under the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 3/2015, banning political gatherings of five or more persons, for participating in the reading of a statement titled ‘universities are not military barracks’ calling for academic freedom on 31 October 2015.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported earlier that the Commander of the 33rd Army Division ordered Lt Col Apichat Kantawong to file a complaint against the academics.

TLHR reported that at the police station the two academics denied all charges, saying that they only exercised their rights under the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom guaranteed under the constitution, which is crucial for promoting democracy.

The said that the reading of the statement deemed to be a violation of the junta’s order was a part of an academic seminar at Chiang Mai University called ‘transformations in [Thailand’s] countryside: the democratic movement’.

It was not intended to cause ‘conflicts’ or ‘instability’ as the military alleged, the academics added.

Furthermore, the academics pointed out that NCPO Order No. 3/2014 can no longer be enforced since the recently enacted Public Assembly Law has already replaced it; both laws were implemented to limit freedom of assembly.

They claimed that the new law on public assembly already cancelled the junta’s order and concluded that the academic briefing that was held is permitted under the Public Assembly Act since it was a normal academic event.

Attachak told the media that only he and Somchai are left as suspects in the case out of six academics charged in total because the rest have signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) with the authorities promising to steer clear of political activities.

The two have also submitted a request to the police to interrogate Tyrell Haberkorn, Janjira Iammayura, Chaiyan Chaiporn, and Surichai Wankaew, four leading social science academics, as witnesses on the case.

If found guilty of violating the junta’s political gathering ban, the two could face up to one year of imprisonment, a 20,000 baht fine, or both.