By PRAVIT ROJANAPHRUK
THE government should create space for the public to have the freedom to criticise it as the restrictions hindering that right have lasted too long, a panel discussion at Chulalongkorn University was told yesterday.
“The restriction of freedom [of expression and assembly] has not been eased for over a year now and the argument [for limiting such a right in order to end political conflict] no longer make sense and has become a permanent restriction of freedom of expression,” said writer Rawee Siri-isaranant, aka Wad Rawee.
The panel discussion on the criminalisation of freedom of expression was organised by the Faculty of Political Science. The public panel got the nod from the faculty to be held but the organisers did not seek prior permission from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
Rawee said even the right of the mass media to report on the arrest and detention of the 14 anti-coup university students was being curbed as seen by the threat against Thai PBS, a public television broadcaster, which recently reported details about some of the detained students.
Chulalongkorn University political scientist Pitch Pongsawat said the NCPO and the government had lost track of the road map to return power to the people and what remained was a road with no sense of direction or time as to where the junta was heading and how long it would stay in power.
Pitch added that the recent arrests and detention of the 14 students, who had peacefully expressed their feelings against the NCPO, had raised doubts about the legitimacy of the laws and the government’s order used against them.
“It led to a question over what makes a law legitimate,” he said.
Pitch said any law or order would not be legitimate if it did not have consent of the people.
Chanoknan Ruamsap, a fourth-year political science student at Chulalongkorn University and a member of the New Democracy Movement to which the detained students belong, said the students felt betrayed as the authorities originally promised not to arrest nine of the 14.
She said the situation was compounded by the parents of many of the detained students and other NDM members being “visited” by police and soldiers, with parents asked how they could raise children so they ended up opposing a dictatorship.
Chanoknan said the students could not solely bear the responsibility for the struggle for democracy and it fell upon all citizens to do their share to ensure that Thailand became a democracy and had freedom.