More on Thammasat, Lèse-majesté, and Free Speech

2012 02 01 anti 112

A follow up on my post yesterday about Thammasat Univ. banning a group of its lecturers from meeting on campus to discuss amending Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws.

The Bangkok Post reports today:

Thammasat University’s decision to bar the Nitirat group from using its campuses for activities related to the lese majeste law has sparked a fierce debate over its stance on freedom of expression.

Thammasat rector Somkit Lertpaithoon yesterday defended the university executive committee’s decision.

In a message posted on his Facebook page, he said the ban was intended to prevent any incidents which could escalate into violence such as the massacre of left-wing students at Thammasat’s Bangkok campus on Oct 6, 1976.

“Many people have expressed disagreement with my decision to prohibit the Nitirat group from campaigning against Section 112 at the university,” he posted. “This could be seen as a restriction on free speech. This is understandable.

“But I want you to look at another angle. University executives had to enact this measure out of worry that the situation could escalate into a second Oct 6.”

The Post also has an op-ed today headlined “Democracy demands debate on lese majeste law.” The author is Titipol Phakdeewanich, a political scientist at Ubon Ratchathani University. A snip:

Thailand will inevitably have to learn one way or another, to fully accept a founding principle of democracy, which is freedom of speech and expression. No country can claim to have negotiated the road to democracy while continuing to pick and choose as and when such democratic principles suit prevailing domestic interests.

The Nation has more in a story. A snip:

Several groups of students put up posters on the campus’ buildings against the decision. They also plan to place wreaths to oppose the decision at Puay Ungpakorn’s statue on the Rangsit campus tomorrow and at Pridi Banomyong’s statue on the main Prachan campus on Sunday.

There’s also this Nation editorial calling for tolerance on all sides:

Thailand cannot emerge from its political stalemate and develop its democratic institutions unless people have respect for opponents’ opinions

(All emphasis mine.)

(Image: Bangkok Post.)