Subject: Government of Thailand Should Immediately End the Crackdown on Academic Freedom and Free Speech
To: The Permanent Mission of Thailand to ASEAN
Sentral Senayan 1, 3rd Floor
Jl.Asia Afrika No.8, Jakarta 10270
Phone: +62 21 5725767
Fax: +62 21 5724206
Dear H.E. Amb. Suvat Chirapant, the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to ASEAN,
The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) – a human rights non-governmental organization based in Jakarta – strongly condemn the Thai authorities’ action and calling on the junta to stop harassing academics and students who wished to exercise freedom of expression. The police detained four prominent academics — Nidhi Eoseewong, Prajak Kongkirati, Chaowarit Chaowsangrat, and Janjira Sombutpoonsiri — together with three student activists for several hours for organizing the “Democracy Classroom” seminar at Thammasat University about the end of dictatorial regimes in foreign countries and ordered the seminar to shut down.
Although they were released without charges after a few hours, they have been told to report to the military before holding any public events from now on. The military also said such activities should not be open to the public in future for fear that they could turn into a political gathering, and there is no academic seminar on democracy and political issues can be conducted without prior approval.
The military authorities apparently perceives any type of differences in political opinions as a threat to stability and national security, Human Rights Watch said. On September 19, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, in answer to media inquiries about the action at Thammasat University, said: “We are working on reconciliation.… This is not a time for them to talk…. They did not get permission to talk. And what did they want talk about? They talked about democracy at Thammasat University. They talked about political issues that we told them not to talk about.”
We believe that the actions carried out by Thai military Junta have violated international obligations comprised in the Convention Thailand has acceded, which are:
Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
Article 21 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Therefore, The UN committee that oversees compliance with the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which Thailand is also a party, has advised governments that academic freedom, as an element of the right to education, includes: “The liberty of individuals to express freely opinions about the institution or system in which they work, to fulfil their functions without discrimination or fear of repression by the State or any other actor, to participate in professional or representative academic bodies, and to enjoy all the internationally recognized human rights applicable to other individuals in the same jurisdiction.”
Also bearing in mind Thailand is the respective member of Association of South-East Asia Nations (ASEAN) who is obliged under Article 23 of ASEAN Human Rights Declaration; to assure its people has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information, whether orally, in writing or through any other medium of that person’s choice.
Therefore, by sending this letter, we would like to demand and urge your Government to abide international obligations and assure the restoration of a democratic government based on human rights.
Jakarta, September 23, 2014
Executive Coordinator of KontraS
*For further information please contact Ms.Ninies (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through KontraS Secretariat (email@example.com)