Censorship of Public Discussion at the People Go Network Forum


The People Go Network Forum organised a two-day conference on the 10 - 11th December, 2016 at Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Political Science after more than 50 days of abstention from political activities. Joined by over 109 non-government organisations and civil society groups, the forum consisted of a series of panel discussions involving senior academics over a range of issues from the judiciary to food security, educational and community rights and sustainable development.


While the organisers aimed to get the movement ready to live under the new junta’s Constitution before it was legally enforced. Having an event at this period was inevitably seen as a test of the junta’s tolerance for political activism in the era of the new King. Many observers would have been disappointed as the University censored information in the standing exhibition panels.


New Democracy Movement (NDM), the anti-junta young activists group, prepared to have a talk as one part of the conference. They released a poster of the talk called ‘Siamese tick: 3 problems of Thai democracy’ consisting of 3 student activists who were arrested and charged multiple times by the military government. The Faculty of Political Science felt insecure about this event as it seemed like a political activity more than civil society discussion. The faculty therefore asked for a change in the format of the talks. Lecturers from the Faculty of Political Science were invited to be speakers instead and the name was changed to ‘Finding Democracy in Jurassic World’.


A few hours before the event started, three issues in the standing exhibition panels were plastered with opaque, black paper. These panels that were censored by the University were exhibiting information regarding three individuals who were charged with the lese majeste law or Article 112 of the Criminal Code. One of the individuals shown on the exhibitions was the Dao Din activist Jatuphat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa, who was recently granted bail after being charged with the lese majeste law for sharing a critical biography of King Vajiralongkorn published by BBC Thai.


This perception is warranted with the history of the junta banning previous discourse organised by academic panels, journalists’ organisations and civil society actors.In one of the more recent cases on September 28, 2016, Special Branch police stopped a press release by Amnesty International that would publicly release a report on alleged torture and ill-treatment by the NCPO in Thailand. The justification for the cancellation of the event was that the official who was set to release the report, Mr. Yuwal Kinbar, the legal and policy advisor of Amnesty International did not possess a work permit and had not sought prior permission to hold the press conference. The report, titled ‘Make Him Speak by Tomorrow: Torture and other Ill-Treatment in Thailand’, is a compilation of 74 cases of alleged torture and other ill-treatments by the NCPO in 2014-15. The report is currently available online on the Amnesty website.


Similarly, the censorship of public discussion extended to the journalists associations as the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Thailand (FCCT) was forced by the junta to cancel a debate on the lese majeste law that was schedule to take place on June 25, 2015.  The FCCT reported that they had received a letter from the police a week before the scheduled event warning that the police would blockade the Maneeya centre (the assigned venue) if the event went ahead. The police stated that they were acting on behalf of the NCPO.


Two weeks before the controversial censorship of the FCCT, the junta banned a public discussion by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, which aimed to discuss human rights violations under the NCPO in the post-coup period.


The censorship attempts by the junta covers even academic sphere as many public discussions were banned or intervened. For example; the NCPO’s blocking of the forum ‘Happiness and Reconciliation under the 2014 Interim Constitution’ which was organised by academics at Chulalongkorn University, the junta interrupted a panel titled the ‘Demise of Foreign Dictators’ at Thammasat University. This repressive environment of freedom of expression and association clearly lasted for almost three years during the NCPO regime. Since the coup, iLaw has documented at least 140 activities that were banned or intervened.

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