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Academics deny conduction ‘staged political activity’ on campus

Jul 19. 2017
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By The Nation

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Thai Academic Network for Civil Rights (TANC) issued a statement on Wednesday insisting on freedom of expression and the right to peaceful gatherings.

The statement was in response to an Interior Ministry internal memorandum about inviting TANC members for “talks” after their recent actions at an academic seminar in Chiang Mai, which were seen as a staged political activity against the military and the coup.

Some TANC members on Tuesday held a banner “An Academic Panel is Not a Military Barrack” during a seminar on Thai studies held at Chiang Mai University.

The act was reported in an interior ministry internal memorandum issued by the Chiang Mai governor to the interior permanent secretary. Dated July 18, it asked the junta’s security unit to invite at least three academics, including the noted political scientist Prajak Kongkirati, for a “talk” and seeking their cooperation in not staging such a political activity again.

The memo called the activity a resistance to the coup that was held by taking advantage of an academic seminar. It also named some of the activists present at the scene.

TANC replied that the activity was an exercise in freedom of expression, and not prohibited by the Constitution.

Secondly, the memo wrongly noted that Prajak Kongkirati took part of the activity, while in fact he had not been at the scene, the statement read.

More importantly, the TANC had always been open and active in fighting for freedom of expression on many occasions. It did not take advantage of the seminar as accused in the memo, the network said.

It emphasised that its movement has been conducted with non-violence, insisting on freedom of expression and academic freedom.

The academic network had exercised its rights to demand that the junta respect freedom of expression and academic freedom and hasten the return of power to the people, the statement read.

The government should tolerate such activities and not accuse activists of holding political movements to delay of the return to democracy, it added.

TANC members also said if they were to be summoned, they were willing to explain the situation to the government as they had strong faith in civil rights.

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