Judges have voted, time for Uthen Thawai supporters to stand down

FRIDAY, MARCH 08, 2024

The legal case between Chulalongkorn University and Eastern Institute of Technology (Uthen Thawai Campus) has been absolutely completed. There is no need to consider anything else.

However, the matter that is still in doubt, and has not ended, is whether Chula will take the land to build new shopping malls after this college has moved out. Some have questioned the conscience of students at both institutions regarding respecting and honouring the institutions.

I am simply an ordinary scholar as well as a regular columnist for this publication. Nonetheless, I have lived in this area for more than 40 years, ever since I was a student in the Faculty of Political Science at Chula and went on to I receive scholarships from both the government and Chulalongkorn University to study abroad and then returning to teach both alumni and current students for several decades.

What I write here comes from direct experience, conversations, and research according to the scientific method. To be honest, I did not merely sit down to write articles or come up with my own dreams.

I once wrote the article, “Chula Matters, let the people at Chula have a say” some six or seven years ago. At that time, the focus of students might have been on changing the format for organising traditional football events (Chula-Thammasat). Changes may even go so far as the cancelling of this event, which has been held for more than 70 years.

In early 2024, I learned that the competition, which will take place in March, will be called a “Football Relationships Event” featuring both universities. From my perspective as an alumnus, I had viewed the University Affairs Office’s latest figures, that there are 83 public universities that are in fact public universities. Private universities or other institutes of higher learning are not included. If they were included, there would be more than 390 universities throughout the country.

When the relationships event takes place, we should keep in mind that in 1934 the traditional football match aimed to strengthen the relationship between the two institutions because the alumni of Suankularb School, who had attended both universities, had taken the initiative to organise it. They were copying the so-called Boat Race between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in England. At the time, there were only two institutes and they had similar ranks in various fields of study – and for well-known people, there were only two institutions. But now, 75 years later, it may be difficult to use this standard in making judgements.

I myself am an alumnus of both Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities. I don’t feel conflicted about which team I support. We now have lots of people with higher education, along with educational institutes. Obviously, people who don’t know about the matter often accuse the Siam Cement Company of having “pink” factory smokestacks, bearing Chulalongkorn University’s school colour. These people understand that engineers, chief technicians, and senior executives recruit only former Chula students, but they might not appreciate that Chula was the first and foremost in teaching engineering students at the undergraduate level ever since the university was founded. In the past, there have been insults against Chula students, with some saying, “They are so snobby” when compared with King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang.

Currently, Chula graduates work as CEOs and senior executives of many organisations in both the public and private sectors, including the political sector. We may have the first prime minister from Chulalongkorn in the near future. This is not because of a fluke or simple “luck”. Each person I personally know has the ability and capacity to go through.

But besides football, the matter under debate here is the strengthening of relations. There have been noisy demonstrations ever since. 

The Supreme Administrative Court has upheld the ultimatum issued by the State Civil-Dispute Resolution Committee, granting Chula complete legal rights over the disputed land. The ruling aims to nullify all opposing claims and instructs 'Uthentawai' to vacate the premises. Unfortunately, enforcing the verdict has proven challenging due to numerous dramatic issues, including persistent protests from the Uthentawai community and even sympathizers within Chula herself.

For instance, let’s consider a petition to propose that “the Uthen Thawai site” become a World Heritage Site. Others suggested that “Chula may use this land to build a shopping centre”. I have heard this accusation for a long time, but I remember a statement by a former president. Many years ago, Dr Pirom Kamonratanakun said they really wanted to create a learning innovation centre for the community. As to the current policy regarding the land, this is probably a matter that needs to be discussed further.

Listen and pay attention, I say: The issue has nothing to do with inequality. Please do not argue, “We are the same people or else”. The important thing is that Thailand is a civilised country; we want to see civilisation in the behaviour and intelligence of people who must respect the law. and comply with court orders.

Remember, judges act under the royal patronage of His Majesty the King. This is because His Majesty has granted authority to judges to act on his behalf, an ancient royal tradition that continues. This case had already been proven through evidence and a verdict has been issued. If you still want the country to be based on the rule of law, all parties must respect and obey the law without conditions.

Amorn Wanichwiwatana, DPhil (Oxon), is a former member of the Constitution Drafting Commission and is currently a professor at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.