Police and soldiers in Nakhon Pathom have monitored a seminar on the pro-democracy movements, threatening the lecturer that the event might constitute a violation of a junta order.
On 16 March 2018, the Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights published a letter from Achara Rakyutitham, a humanities lecturer at Silpakorn University. She reported that the military and police yesterday disrupted a seminar “A talk with suspects: ordinary people who want an election” which was held as part of a module she is teaching.
Achara stated she had invited over 10 guest speakers who were prosecuted for joining the pro-election protests at MBK shopping centre and the Democracy Monument. The activity was held mainly for students who enrolled in Achara’s classes, but she also allows non-students who registered online to attend.
Two hours before the event started, two middle-aged plainclothes officers who had not registered came to the venue, claiming to be students from a university in Bangkok and wanting to video-record the seminar for their thesis. Achara suspected that they were in fact plain-clothes officers because of their style of haircut. She also observed that the authorities came early because they wanted to know who were the organisers of the seminar.
When the seminar began, around six more undercover officers asked to join the seminar without prior registration. They said they came to “make sure everything was in order.”
“In fact, everything had been in order as normal until they created disorder,” read Achara’s letter.
During the seminar, a police officer from the Special Branch Bureau told Achara that a guest speaker had said something that was inappropriate and might constitute a violation of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head Order 3/2015. The officer added that Achara might be “on the watch list” from now on.
“Even though the conversation was polite and friendly, I see that I was being intimidated by citing the NCPO order 3/2015, and being told it was ‘inappropriate’ and that I would go “on the watch list” while this activity was just a part of educational process,” Achara wrote, adding that her students also felt intimidated and disturbed by the authorities.
Finally, the lecturer thanked the officers for “demonstrating” state intimidation of ordinary people for her students.