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Civil groups call for charges against academics dropped

Civil groups call for charges against academics dropped

WEDNESDAY, August 16, 2017

Nearly 30 civil-based organisations promoting sustainable development and human rights issued a joint statement on Wednesday calling on Thai authorities to drop charges against a prominent academic and another four people accused of violating the military ban on public assembly at an academic conference recently held at Chiang Mai University.

Since the “13th International Conference on Thai Studies”, which was held at CMU from July 15 to 18, at least four academics have been summoned by the police after displaying banners saying “this was not a military camp, but an academic forum”. 
Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, director of CMU’s Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development, is the latest to be called upon by the police for alleged violation of a ban on political gatherings or activities. He initially planned to meet the police on August 23, the Transborder News online news agency reported on Tuesday.
Chayan was quoted as saying that he had not asked for permission from the military to organise the event in the first place, as it was academic-based. It was probably the banners that were displayed at the event that had prompted the latest call from the police, he acknowledged.
Chayan insisted, however, that no political activities had been held at the four-day conference, despite what he was being accused of, so he had no idea why he had been summoned. He added that he had consulted the Chiang Mai governor about the event, and that the governor had even presided over it. 
The civil organisations, mostly working with him in the development field, insisted that Chayan is an academic who always works side-by-side with the poor, with knowledge and expertise serving the people and the country’s fundamental problems. 
They said the conference he helped supervise was definitely not a political gathering but a forum where the problems of the poor discussed and solutions proposed – something the group viewed that the government should listen to. 
In addition, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights –to which the country is a signatory and had ratified – guaranteed rights to academic expression. The government should protect such rights rather than violate them, the group said.
They called on the authorities to drop the charges against Chayan and his fellow academics immediately.
Among those signing the statement were the Thai Network of 8 Mekong provinces, Kaeng Sua Ten groups, Living River Siam, the Foundation for Integrated Water Management, and others.