Academics demand junta cease its intimidation

Academics demand junta cease its intimidation

A network of university lecturers on Monday called for an end to the government's intimidation of academics and students staging activities to express their sincere political opinions.

The demand was made in a statement to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, as chairman of the junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

The "network of lecturers with concerns about their students in detention" led by Anusorn Unno, dean of the faculty of sociology and anthropology at Thammasat Univerity, submitted the statement through Suksawat Suwannawong, chief coordinator of the Government House public service centre.

Mr Anusorn was accompanied by other 10 lecturers, including Pichit Likitkijsomboon, of the faculty of economics at Thammasat University; Yukti Mukdawichit, of the faculty of sociology and anthopology at Thammasat University; and Komkrit Uitekkheng, of Silpakorn University's faculty of fine arts.

The statement was supported by the signatures of 323 lecturers and freelance academics, both inside the country and abroad. They included Kasien Techapeera of Thammasat University's faculty of political science; Vorajate Pakirat, of Thammasat University's faculty of law; Nualnoy Treerat, of Chulalongkorn University's faculty of economics; and Pakawadi Veerapaswong, a freelance writer and translator.

Mr Anusorn said the statement was directed at the NCPO for its actions against a group of lecturers. The lecturers were charged with the illegal assembly of five people or more in violation of an order of the NCPO chairman, because they issued a statement entiled "Universities Are not Military Camps" on Oct 31 in Chiang Mai in support of their freedom to seek knowledge through a teaching and learning process.

"The network would like to ask the NCPO to stop intimidating lecturers who sincerely express their political opinions; stop prohibiting students and people from holding political activities; and, stop interfering in the learning and teaching methods of universities to make them follow the NCPO's guidance.

"We think the charge carrying a jail term slapped on that group of lecturers is a violation of their rights and freedom and an act of intimidation to stop them from voicing opinions different from those of the NCPO," Mr Anusorn said.

He said lecturers who called for the release of their students being detained for expressing political opinions had also been intimidated and detained.

"We are persistent in our opinion that universities are not military camps but places for seeking knowledge and exchange of arguments on the basis of reasoning and acknowledging global changes to solve the country's problems.

"Freedom of expression and knowledge is fundamental to the existence of universities and society," Mr Anusorn said.

A similar statement was also issued on Monday by four other organisations - the Human Rights Lawyers Association, the Union for Civil Liberty, the ENLAWTHAI Foundation, and the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Centre - calling on the NCPO, government, armed forces and police to stop using the law as a tool to intimidate academics and to stop taking legal action against them.

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