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Chiang Mai academics slam junta over activist's arrest

Military's action was attack on people's right to expression, Midnight University group says

Published on July 9, 2007

A group of university academics yesterday denounced the military for arresting a political activist who was campaigning against the draft constitution.

The Midnight University group also vowed to organise a special outdoor class in front of the Election Commission Office to lecture government officials about the public's right to free expression.

The Midnight University is a network of academics, mostly from Chiang Mai University, who provide Internet-based and mobile classes on general issues that affect people's lives.

The group yesterday held a press conference at Chiang Mai University to denounce the arrest of Sombat Boon-ngamanong, a leading member of the Dynamic Citizens Group.

He was detained by military officials while speaking out against the draft constitution at the Chiang Rai Bus Terminal on Friday evening and held at the Chiang Rai Military Camp for questioning before being released on Saturday evening.

Speaking to The Nation after his release, Sombat said he was not allowed to make any phone calls during his detention and was only allowed to receive a phone call from former Chiang Rai senator Tuanjai Deethet. He also said the military did not allow him to drink anything during his detention.

Sombat said the director of Phitsanulok Military Intelligence threatened to detain him for seven days and to take him to Phitsanulok for questioning.

He said the intelligence director told him he had committed a crime against the state by disseminating one-sided information to the public and was liable for the death penalty under Article 116 of the Criminal Code.

Assoc Professor Somkiat Tangnamo, rector of the Midnight University, said that Sombat's arrest was a severe violation of his basic human rights and intimidation of him and the people.

"The Midnight University would like to denounce the dictatorial action of state officials who intimidated the rights of Sombat and the people," Somkiat said.

He said the group wanted the public to join the call for lifting of martial law in Chiang Rai and the rest of the country so that the people could express their opinions of the draft constitution freely.

He said the Midnight University would deliver a lecture on the people's right of expression in front of the EC Office at 1pm on Wednesday (July 11).

Lecturer Nidhi Eoseewongse said the group of academics wanted the public to vote against the draft and that Midnight University would launch green wristbands as a symbol of opposition to the draft charter.

Meanwhile, in Bangkok, a network of academics and organisations working to protect human rights held a press conference to denounce Sombat's arrest.

The network denounced the arrest as intimidation of the people and violation of basic human rights.

The group called on the military to promise that there would be no more arrests of pro-democracy activists and that the people's right to hold peaceful rallies would be respected.

The Nation

Chiang Mai

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