Authorities at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand are attempting to victimise anti-military junta academic Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Associate Professor of Political Science.
Earlier this year university authorities ordered the university bookshop to refuse to sell Ungpakorn’s book, A Coup For The Rich. The book criticises the military coup and the destruction of democracy in Thailand.
Ungpakorn has made repeated attempts to get an explanation from the university authorities about the ban. To date the university has failed to provide a written explanation, although the book is on sale at Thammasat University bookshop, also in Bangkok.
This censorship led Ungpakorn to complain to the National Human Rights Commission that Chulalongkorn authorities had stifled academic freedom. The Commission is looking into the case.
The university is far from neutral. Many university officials – including the Rector and various Faculty Deans – are collaborating with the junta. Academics have been appointed to junta bodies, including the unelected parliament.
Vice Rector Professor Kua Wongbunsin is currently attempting to lodge a complaint against Ungpakorn for confronting him and asking for an explanation about the ban.
Kua Wongbunsin is directly responsible for overseeing the university bookshop. He accused Ungpakorn of having a “hidden agenda” in trying to get the bookshop to sell the book and he has belittled the National Human Rights Commission.
A kangaroo court was set up by the Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, Dr Jarus Suwannamala on 8 May to “investigate” Ungpakorn’s behaviour towards Kua Wongbunsin.
Ungpakorn was unaware of the investigation until he arrived at a meeting with retired Professor Prasit Sawasdyart on 21 June. He was not given the chance to prepare his defence before being confronted with the charges at the meeting. He has still not been given any documents detailing the charges. These methods do not conform to basic standards of justice and transparency.
This attack should also be seen in the light of attempts to introduce free-market liberalism into the university system. Professor Ungpakorn is a strong opponent of this, while Vice Rector Kua Wongbunsin is an ardent supporter.
All those who are concerned about freedom and democracy in Thailand should send letters of protest to the Rector and the Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.
Letter of concern regarding the disciplinary charges against Associate Giles Ji Ungpakorn
We, the undersigned, are very concerned to hear that The Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, has set up a disciplinary committee to consider charges against the pro-democracy academic Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn. The charges are worrying because:
- Thailand is under the rule of a military dictatorship and Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a prominent critic of this dictatorship.
- Chulalongkorn University bookshop is refusing to sell Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn’s academic book titled “A Coup for the Rich”.
- The disciplinary committee was set up without informing Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn. He was asked to meet a retired academic who turned out to be heading the committee. The defendant has therefore not been given the basic right to prepare his case in advance or to be properly informed of the charges against him.
We sincerely hope that the university will refrain from taking any action against Associate Professor Ungpakorn for political reasons and that basic international standards of justice are applied in any hearings involving him.
Letters should be sent to The Dean of the Faculty of Political Science and The Rector. The address for both is Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok 10330, Thailand.
For Giles Ji Ungpakorn on the coup go to » Resisting the Thai military’s assault on democracy