CityNews – On 21st August 2017, the Peace and Order Maintaining Command in Chiang Mai summoned the head organiser and four participants of the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies, held last month, to the Chang Phuek Police Station and charged them for assembling more than five people for political activities without the authority’s permit.
Dr. Chayan Wattanaput of the Ethnic Studies and Development Centre, Faculty of Sociology, Chiang Mai University who was in charge of organising the forum is facing the charge along with four participants including a graduate student and an undergraduate student from Faculty of Mass Communication, Chiang Mai University, a Ph.D student from Faculty of Sociology, Chiang Mai University, an Editor in Chief of Prchatham and a freelance writer and translator.
The Peace and Order Maintaining Command in Chiang Mai reported the charge to Chang Puak police station and authorised the military headquarters at Circle 33 to be in charge of the case. The charge came following the posting of a photograph of a banner held on July 18th at the forum which read, “An academic forum, not a military camp”.
Photo from @ThaiAcademicNetworkforCivilRights Facebook account
Assoc. Prof Pinkaew Laungaramsri from Faculty of Sociology, Chiang Mai University posted on Facebook about the issue:
“First of all, the banner was used as a response to the meddling by the military in regards to the event. Secondly both uniformed and plainclothes members of the military were seen at the event from day one and none of them registered. They just poped by and did whatever they wanted. In fact, this is the forum that all participants paid to attend. Three, attendees were so annoyed by such behaviour that the banner was photographed and shared on social media on the last day of the event to ask the military to stop irritating people at the event.”
Dr Chayan and all 4 attendees went to the Chang Puak police station as summoned on August 21st and all deny the charges. A further investigation is appointed on September 1st.
The 13th International Conference on Thai Studies (ICTS) is held to encourage Thai and international scholars to reflect upon Thai society, politics, economics, culture, and environment in the context of globalisation that concerns relationships between Thai and other Tai-speaking groups residing in and outside of Thailand. The ICTS has been held once every three years since 1981when it was held at the University of Delhi and is held in different destinations across the world including, Thailand, Australia, Kunming, London, Amsterdam and United State. This year the ICTS was held in Chiang Mai University for the second time with the theme “Thai Studies: Globalized Thailand? Connectivity, Conflict, and Conundrums of Thai Studies”. Thousands of academics and scholars from all over the world attended and this conference is considered of utmost importance to the understanding of Thai and Tai studies.