Academics demand freedom from government

Attendants of the International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai Convention and Exhibition Centre in Chiang Mai watch a group of academics issuing a declaration demanding the return of freedom from the government on Monday.

CHIANG MAI - A group of Thai and foreign academics urged the government on Monday to return freedom to the country.

The four-point declaration, “Return the Space of Knowledge, Rights, and Civil Liberties to Thai Society”, was signed by 176 academics during the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The four-day international forum ends on Tuesday.

The rights and freedom of people to access information, news, facts, and knowledge have been greatly suppressed and derogated after the coup in 2014, the declaration said.

People holding opinions different than the state have been harassed, threatened, arrested or detained in contravention to judicial principles and process, it added.

They urged the government to respect academic freedom, the rights and freedom of expression of people, swiftly return the sovereignty to the people in line with democratic principles and reform important institutions, especially the judiciary and the military.

The two institutions often exercise power freely without any regard for the people and partly led Thai society and politics to the current crisis, they said.

"Thailand is not normal although people tried to show you that we are normal. Or they are trying to bring 'new normal' to Thailand. But it’s not like that," said Anusorn Unno of Thammasat University.

"We would like to communicate with the National Council for Peace and Order that no matter how hard they try to drive the country backward, even to before 1932, this conference has made it clear that the academic world cannot be shut down,” he added.

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