Academics baffled over 'political' charges in Chiang Mai

Breaking News September 01, 2017 12:09

By The Nation

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Academics accused of violating the military government's ban on political gatherings have again insisted there was nothing political about their July international conference at Chiang Mai University.

Social scientist Chayan Vaddhanaphuti and four others met Chang Puak police on Friday for the second time, submitting documents in a bid to prove they had not violated the junta’s directive.

Chainarong Sretthachau, Chayan’s fellow academic, posted the update on Facebook.

Chayan, director of the university’s Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development, had met police last week with his colleagues to acknowledge summonses.

Since the July 15-18 International Conference on Thai Studies, at which banners were displayed reading “This was not a military camp but an academic forum”, at least four academics have been summoned.

Chayan was the latest to be called in and is accused of violating the junta's prohibition on political gatherings and activities.

Chayan was quoted by Transborder News as saying he had not sought the military's permission to stage the conference because it was a purely academic event and had nothing to do with politics. 

He speculated that the banners displayed at the forum had prompted the police response. 

He insisted there had been no political activities during the conference and he had no idea why he'd been summoned. 

Chayan pointed out that he'd consulted Chiang Mai's governor before the event and the governor had even presided at the opening.

Academics at home and abroad have urged that the charges, which they see as a threat to academic freedom and freedom of expression, be dropped.

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