Thammasat should instead host public activities to debate Article 112

A group of Thammasat lecturers and alumni led by former Rector Charnvit Kasetsiri has sent an open letter to the University’s Rector and administrators to protest their decision to ban Nitirat’s activities and suggest that the University itself should play host to public debates on the issue.

Somkid Lertpaitoon, Rector of Thammasat University, posted on his Facebook page on 30 Jan a message that the university’s administration had decided not to allow any activity concerning Article 112 to be held on its premises, reasoning that the public might mistakenly think that the university agreed with such activity, and that might lead to violent conflict.

Charnvit’s group, which consists of 26 academics, said in their letter that the decision ruined academic freedom and the freedom of expression. 

Without such freedoms, universities no longer have any reason to exist.  Furthermore, the ban is against the founding principle and spirit of Thammasat University which has been a bastion protecting the people’s rights and freedoms, the group said.

Thammasat has always been a public venue for various groups to hold debates and rallies, but never has the public mistakenly believed that such activities were organized or sanctioned by the university; on the contrary, Thammasat has been held in high regard for that very role, they said.

They said that the decision was tantamount to ditching debate on the socially sensitive issue of Article 112 from the academic sphere into the streets, and risked violent social conflict.

While Thai society is obviously in need of more understanding about Article 112, Thammasat should take the lead in disseminating a proper knowledge among the public and lessening social conflict, they said.

They suggested that the university instead take up the role of hosting academic activities on Article 112 for each side to present their views to avoid confrontation and to create an opportunity for each side to express its opinion without having to descend into the atmosphere of a debate which aims to have one side win.

Such activities would show the public that debates on any sensitive issues can be done in a civil, constructive and socially beneficial way, and would serve to avoid any public misunderstanding, about which the university administrators are so concerned, they said.


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