Chulalongkorn University authorities are attempting to victimise the anti-military junta academic, Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn.
Earlier this year Chulalongkorn University authorities ordered the university bookshop to refuse to sell Professor Ungpakorn’s book “A Coup for the Rich”. The book, by the Political Science Professor, criticised the military coup and the destruction of democracy in Thailand. Professor Ungpakorn made repeated attempts to obtain an explanation from the university authorities about why they banned the sale of this book. Up to this day the university has never provided Professor Ungpakorn with any written explanation. The book is, however, on sale at Thammasart University bookshop.
This act of censorship, lead to Professor Ungpakorn’s complaint to the National Human Rights Commission that Chulalongkorn authorities had stifled academic freedom. The Commision is currently looking into the case. It should be noted that many of the Chulalongkorn university’s officials, including the Rector and various Faculty Deans and academics are collaborating with the junta and supporting the coup. Academics have been appointed to junta bodies, including the unelected parliament.
Therefore the recent attempt by Vice Rector Professor Kua Wongbunsin to lodge a complaint against Professor Ungpakorn for confronting him in order to gain an explanation about the refusal to sell his book, can be seen as a crude political move to attempt to discipline the anti-coup academic. Professor Kua is directly responsible for overseeing the university bookshop. Yet he has never taken responsibilty for censoring “A Coup for the Rich”. He has never offered an official explanation to the author. He accused the author of having a “hidden agenda” in trying to get the university 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 the 8th May in order to “investigate” Professor Ungpakorn’s behaviour towards Professor Kua Wongbunsin. The setting up of this investigation was kept secret and Professor Ungpakorn was totally unaware of any charges against him or of any investigation until he was asked to meet with retired Professor Prasit Sawasdyart on 21st June. No reason was given for the meeting in advance and Professor Ungpakorn was not given the chance to prepare his defence until confronted with the charges by Professor Prasit Sawasdyart. No documents detailing the charges have been given to Professor Ungpakorn. The methods used by this so-called investigation committee do not conform with basic standards of justice and transparency. Clearly this is a case of crude political victimisation.
This serious attack against academic freedom should also be seen in the light of attempts by the university authorities, in collaboration with the junta, to introduce free-market corporatisation into the university system. Professor Ungpakorn is a strong opponent of such corporatisation. Vice Rector Kua Wongbunsin is an ardent advocate of corporatisation.
All those who are concerned about freedom and democracy in Thailand should send letters of protest to the Rector of Chulalongkorn University and to the Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.