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Thai academic network calls on authorities to stop blocking dissent

The Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC) has issued a statement following the crackdown on the Pathumwan protest on 16 October, calling for the authorities to stop using force to crack down on protesters, cease using the legal system to block dissent, and find a resolution for the country. 

Representatives of the TANC submitting their statement at the Government House 

The statement, signed by 1,118 academics said:

Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights Statement:

Stop Cracking Down on the Protesters, Ceasing Eradicating the Dissidents, Building an Exit for Thailand

Recent demonstrations by students and the People across Thailand since the beginning of 2020 demonstrate that Thailand has continuously faced multiple issues that are complex and interconnected, and that must be properly addressed at the core to gradually and effectively solve them. At many demonstrations, the People have presented the government with reasoned resolutions based on facts and principles, with the interests of the People and the country as the foundation. The demonstrations have been fully peaceful and non-violent. Yet, the regime has ignored the voice of the People, and has tried to block the legal and peaceful protests by many different means. Many protesters have been arrested. Worse, the government has declared the State of Severe Emergency, and on the evening and night of 16 October 2020 violently dispersed the protests using force claiming authority under the State of Severe Emergency. Many protesters were injured and the situation continues to escalate, while there is no indication that a resolution is being sought.

The issues faced in Thailand are rooted in longstanding inequality and injustice. Various groups of people in the country including along the lines of birth, race, religion, ideology, occupation, gender, and places have never had equal access to benefits, rights, and power. The only way to resolve these issues is to create a space where the People can openly and equally deliberate and negotiate for equitable benefits. To not offer such a space, but instead to distort the problems or suppress the dissidents with force, will not find a resolution, as witnessed in Thailand over the past decade.

The Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights, together with the listed 1,118 academics and other signatories of this Statement, hereby stand with the People and the demonstrators, and requests the Government to acknowledge and act as follows:

1. We condemn the use of force to disperse the student demonstration at Patumwan intersection on the night of 16 October 2020. The suppression and dispersal of the protest did not follow the principles and steps of international practice. This action was inflicted against unarmed and peaceful protesters, many of whom were students. The Government must stop cracking down on the protest and must be held responsible for the mistake.

2. The Government must cease using the legal system to suppress the People who the Government now sees as its opponents. The peaceful demonstration was conducted in compliance with Thailand’s Constitution and international agreements that Thailand has signed. The Government must cease using such a law as the Computer Crime Act to sue the People who express different opinions and criticize the Government. In particular, the government must immediately lift the State of Emergency and stop the legal suppression that restricts the Rights of the People.

3. The Government must demonstrate its sincerity in listening to the People’s voice, and take the People’s resolutions into account, be they the resignation of the Prime Minister, the constitutional amendment, and especially the need to reform the Monarchy to comply with democracy. The Government should establish a Committee to collaborate on this matter, taking account of the voices of academics, the public, and most importantly the students. Core rules should be agreed by stakeholders at the beginning of this process, as if there is not an equal distribution of power and benefits that is the basis of a just society, then there is little chance that Thailand will overcome the complex difficulties it has faced for decades.

Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC)

20 October 2020

Anusorn Unno, lecturer and former dean of the Faculty Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, along with representatives of TANC members also marched from Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus on 19 October to the Government House to submit the statement.

The TANC also said that the government has to act on their demands within 7 days, or they will be escalating and may go on strike.