Thai universities silence voices against draft charter, referendum

At least four universities in Thailand have complied with the junta’s censorship measures by prohibiting their students and lecturers from discussing the junta-sponsored draft charter and the August referendum. 

Khon Kaen University bans public discussion of draft charter  

 
On Saturday, 30 July 2016, Jirawat Sanitchon, Deputy Dean of Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Agriculture, barred student activists from hosting ‘Talk for Freedom’, a public discussion on the draft charter to be held the following day, reasoning that the talk will make the institution look politically partial. However, the student activists insisted that they would go on with the event. 
 
Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, an anti-junta activist from the Dao Din group, told Prachatai that the activists came to the venue early on Saturday morning to prepare for the Sunday event. The university called the event organizers in the late morning asking them to cancel the event but they refused, saying that the university had already given them permission and they had paid the venue rental fee. 
 
The University then cut off the electricity and water supply to the building in the afternoon so the activists had to use an electric generator to continue their activity. Early in the evening, the Dean came to the venue and asked them to stop the event but they insisted on continuing. An hour later, the head of security visited them again and asked them to leave. The activists then decided to stay overnight at the venue as they were worried that the university might take back the venue once they leave.
 
The next day, the discussion was held as planned but the discussants had to speak via a megaphone and the audience had to sit on the ground. Jatupat said that in fact they rented chairs from a restaurant but the local authorities contacted the restaurant’s owner to take them back. 
 
 
The head of security asks the activists to leave the venue 
 

Mahidol University warns lecturers not to talk about draft charter

 
On Saturday, Udom Kachintorn, President of Mahidol University, said that he had received a letter of complaint from the Election Commission of Thailand regarding Gothom Arya, Director of Mahidol University’s Research Centre for Peace Building who regularly criticizes the junta and the draft charter. The letter wanted the university to urge Gothom to stop the criticism, reported Matichon Online.    
 
Udom said that he had already warned Gothom to avoid expressing his thoughts on the draft, reasoning that it will hurt the political neutrality of the institution. 
 
 
Gothom Arya
 

Ubon Ratchathani University prohibits talk on referendum

 
On Monday, 1 August 2016, Titipol Phakdeewanich, Dean of Ubon Ratchathani University’s Faculty of Political Science, posted on his Facebook page that the public seminar "A Free and Fair Constitutional Referendum and its Implication for the Future of Thai Democracy," which was planned for 2 August, had to be cancelled due to requests from the university executive and the Provincial Governor.
 
According to The Isaan Record,  this is despite the fact that Titipol had already been granted permission from junta’s local officials. However, the Provincial Governor disallowed the event, reasoning that the seminar was not necessary since local officials have already hosted such a discussion. The authorities also questioned the political neutrality of Titipol’s event.
 
Titipol added that this public seminar was intended to provide a public platform for a vibrant discussion on the constitutional draft, which is important for the future of Thailand and its democratic progress. 
 
“It is in fact our duty. As the Faculty of Political Science, we have to open a channel for discussion and free criticism of the draft charter because many people nowadays still have questions on the draft’s content,” The Isaan Record quoted Titipol as saying. 
 
Titipol added that this public seminar was intended to provide a public platform for a vibrant discussion on the constitutional draft, which is important for the future of Thailand and its democratic progress. 
 
“It is in fact our duty. As the Faculty of Political Science, we have to open a channel for discussion and free criticism to the draft charter because many people nowadays still have questions on the draft’s content,” The Isaan Record quoted Titipol as saying. 
 
 
Poster of the cancelled seminar (source: The Isaan Record)
 

Chiang Mai University bans press conference on referendum

 

Academics from the Midnight University group, a pro-democracy group of lecturers at Chiang Mai University, told the media that a press conference on “Three Rejections of the Referendum” had to be cancelled due to an order from the university’s executive, reported Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) on Monday. 
 
Somchai Preechasinlapakun, a representative of the group, said that the Dean of the Law Faculty told him on Sunday to cancel the event, citing a verbal order from the university president without any official document. Somchai also added that the University is gradually turning into a military camp.  
 
The academics then distributed to the media the group’s statement which was to be released in the press conference, saying that the university had also prohibited them from reading the statement.   
 
The ‘Three Rejections of the Referendum’ refers to rejection of the draft charter, the attached question, and the authoritarian drafting process.
 
 
Academics from Midnight University group speak to the media at the Faculty of Law (source: TLHR)