Police officers raided the 1932 People Space library at Wat Tong Noppakun in Khlong San on Sunday (23 January 2022) and seized a book and other objects before returning them, claiming that an officer took the book to give to his son.
Illustrations of student activists Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Panupong Jadnok in "10 Ratsadorn," a copy of which was confiscated from the 1932 People Space Library
Vee, one of the librarians, said that 5 plainclothes officers from Somdej Chao Phraya Police Station came to the library on Sunday morning (23 January 2022) while librarians were preparing to open the library, and questioned them about the library opening event the previous day and why the police were not notified about the event, as well as about what classes they were holding.
The officers also looked through the library and seized a copy of “10 Ratsadorn,” one of the picture books in the “Nithan Wad Wang” (“Dream of Hope Tales”) series about the pro-democracy movement, freedom of expression, diversity, and what young people dream they want the world to be.
They also confiscated several “Repeal Section 112” stickers and a red flag, which did not belong to the library but to an organization which joined Saturday’s opening ceremony.
Vee said that the officers did not present a search warrant, but one identified himself as Pol Sen Sgt Maj Thongpoon Luetongchak, an inquiry officer from Somdej Chao Phraya Police Station. They also did not say why the objects were being seized, but said that they were being used as evidence of intention to organize an activity.
“It’s not a wrong intention, is it? And we haven’t organized any activity. Yesterday was just our opening ceremony,” Vee said.
Thammasat University student activist Chanin Wongsri, who is also one of the librarians, said that the librarians have already contacted Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) and will be going to Somdej Chao Phraya Police Station to ask why the library was searched.
Chanin said that he does not feel that the raid would affect academic freedom, since people can find the books on the internet, but it is an attempt to intimidate people who want to discuss politics in public.
“If we are reading quietly, that is allowed, but if we talk about it in public, the state tries to make this into something scary, to make it seem something we cannot do. Does it have an effect? There may be hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people like me. Some people may not be brave enough to express themselves,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vee said she is not concerned, because they did not break any law.
“We did nothing wrong. We followed the law, and we have the academic freedom we should have,” she said.
Sulak Sivaraksa speaking at the library opening ceremony on Saturday (22 January 2022)
The 1932 People Space Library is located at Wat Tong Noppakun in Khlong San, Bangkok, and was officially opened on Saturday (22 January 2022). It was previously curated by writer Sulak Sivaraksa, who invited students from various universities in to help develop the space into a social sciences library and a space for discussion about political and social issues.
Khaosod English later reported on Sunday evening (23 January 2022) Pol Sen Sgt Maj Thongpoon told them that he and the other officers did not confiscate anything from the library, but that they were only talking to the librarians. A librarian also told journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk that she was told by an officer that there had been a misunderstanding and the objects have been returned.
Apinan Pattanasiri, another library staff member, also told Khaosod English that the officer claimed he took the picture book because his son liked picture books.