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Mahidol reprimands lecturers for criticism of NCPO’s special powers

MAHIDOL UNIVERSITY will form a committee to investigate a group of lecturers belonging to its Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP), following the institute’s statement questioning alleged junta abuses of power, including the issuance of Article 44 orders.

In a statement issued yesterday, Mahidol University denounced the lecturers for “damaging the university’s reputation” by using its name in their original statement. “Such action is not academic freedom,” the university statement read. “We urge the issuers to stop immediately.”
Mahidol’s statement added that it always stood by the principle that everyone must respect the law.
The university’s reaction came after the IHRP late on Saturday night issued a statement calling for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to stop using absolute powers granted by Article 44 of the interim charter. 
The article allows Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, as NCPO head, to issue decrees that are not subject to any checks-or-balances measures, with more than 130 orders having been enacted since the NCPO took power in 2014.
“Using the article [to solve problems] is using dictatorial power against the rule of law, with a lack of checks and balances, and it is illegitimate,” the statement said. “Article 44 is used too often and without a sense of urgency. In many cases, the government and authorities are able to enforce [the same measures] by normal laws.”
The IHRP cited nine orders issued this month, including one establishing the controversial Dhammakaya Temple and surroundings areas as a “controlled area” during a search for former abbot Phra Dhammachayo. 
The institute’s statement was released hours after a man hanged himself from a 100-metre-high radio antenna in an apparent protest against the ongoing siege at the controversial Dhammakaya Temple.
Before killing himself, the man called on the government to revoke the Article 44 order.
However, the IHRP’s former director and present adviser Gothom Arya told The Nation that the IHRP had not raised the issue of Article 44 related to any particular case. 
“We cited those nine orders only to provide a picture of how often the NCPO has enacted this absolute power over the past couple of months,” said Gothom, who has a record of criticising the junta.
As an adviser, Gothom said he did not have knowledge of what actions the IHRP would take next, but added that a further statement was unlikely. The IHRP’s current director, Eakpant Pindavanija, said he could not comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, Mahidol’s statement was followed by online questions why the IHRP, which is an institute belonging to the university, should not be allowed to use Mahidol’s name when taking action.
“Don’t be indecisive,” said netizen activist Arthit Suruyawongkul on Facebook. “When they [the IHRP] make contributions, you [Mahidol University] claim them as yours. But when they don’t act by your accord, you simply cut them out, saying they falsely used your name.”

Published : February 26, 2017