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The Thai Consulate in Germany threatened to withdraw donations to a German university in Frankfurt for inviting an anti-junta lecturer to talk about Thai politics.   

According to Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fierce critic of the Thai junta who is a Thai Associate Professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, Japan, the Thai Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, on Tuesday, 14 July 2015, threatened to withdraw funding to the Goethe University of Frankfurt for inviting him to speak as a guest lecturer about Thai political development.

Pavin posted on his Facebook profile on Tuesday a message that he was contacted by the staff of the Goethe University of Frankfurt at short notice to cancel a special lecture on Thai politics, which he had been invited to give.

The university staff told him that the Thai Consulate in Frankfurt had contacted the university to cancel the lecture, threatening to withdraw funding to the university if the lecture was to go ahead.

(Left) Pavin gives a lecture about Thailand’s political development at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany on 14 July 2015 in defiance of the organisers’ decision to cancel the event (Photo taken from Pavin’s facebook)     

Pavin fiercely protested the decision of the university to cancel his lecture and complained that the university should not let the Thai Consulate restrict academic freedom.

“I complained harshly to the organisers of the lecture for letting a donation from the Consulate influence academic freedom in Germany,” Pavin wrote on his Facebook profile.

After a heated exchange with the organisers, however, Pavin contacted a group of students of Goethe University who still wanted to participate in the lecture and was able to give the lecture in defiance of the organisers’ policy.

On Wednesday, 15 July 2015, he made a formal complaint to five German agencies, including the German Embassy to Thailand in Bangkok and the Antikorruptionsreferat (anti-corruption agency), asking for an investigation of the ‘misconduct’ of the Goethe University of Frankfurt and the Thai Consulate.

“I am writing to alert you of the possibility that the Department [of the Goethe University of Frankfurt] might have compromised its duty to defend academic freedom in exchange for financial rewards from the Thai Consulate [in Frankfurt],” Pavin wrote in his complaint.

Pavin also reported that on 6 July, staff of the Thai Embassy to Germany in Berlin contacted the University of Freiburg to ask if embassy staff could attend the one of his lectures at Freiburg University, but the university declined the request, saying that there should be no politics involved in academic seminars.

Pavin was among a long list of Thai academics and activists summoned by the Thai junta immediately after the 2014 coup d’état to report to the coup-makers. He, however, refused the junta’s summons and has not been back to Thailand since the coup.

He is currently in Germany as a guest researcher at the University of Freiburg.        

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