Embattled Midnight University website complains to NHRC
The Midnight University Monday petitioned the Administrative Court for protection against the recent decision by the Information and Communications Technology Ministry (ICT) to shut down the group's website, www.midnightuniv.org.
Somkiat Tangnamo, webmaster and rector of the Midnight University, said the closure amounted to gross interference in the country's academic freedom.
"We cited the ICT as a defendant because the shutdown of the website violated academic freedom and people's right to communication," said Somkiat, a member of the Arts and Media faculties at Chiang Mai University.
"We have been informed by the court that a decision will be announced within the week," he said. The group wants the court to permit the site to be restored in the interim as the court weighs the decision.
The site was blocked on the night of September 29, immediately after it reported that members had burned mock copies of the interim constitution.
Chiang Mai-based Midnight University is an informal public intellectual network whose website receives about 2.5 million visits a month. The closure of the website led to the loss of 1,500 scholarly articles as well as a lively Web board with thought-provoking debates.
Somkiat Monday also filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). He met human rights commissioner Surisi Kosolnawin and urged the NHRC to investigate the case as it threatened freedom of expression.
He said that irrespective of those responsible, "The rule of the jungle seems to have taken over the rule of law in present-day Thailand."
"It's a barbaric act which lacks any understanding of rights and liberty on the part of the ICT Ministry," he said in a statement.
Somkiat told Surisi that his own investigation pointed to a "man connected to the old regime within the ICT Ministry" being responsible for ordering the site blocked. However, he had no evidence to back the claim.
"We [the Midnight University team] were informed [about people behind the scenes] by a former senator and a committee member of the Thai Journalists Association," Somkiat told The Nation, adding that the former senator was connected to the Democrat Party and the anti-Thaksin movement.
The senator and journalist suggested that people loyal to Thaksin had attempted to discredit the military junta that deposed him, Somkiat said.
Human rights commissioner Surisi said an investigation into the issue would take one month.