Dissent is not a crime: scholars call for international support for arrested democracy campaigners.
Fourteen Thai students were arrested on 26 June 2015 and are currently being detained in Bangkok after a series of peaceful protests against the military dictatorship of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
They have been accused of violating NCPO Order No. 3/2558, which prohibits political demonstrations, and Article 116 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits incitement and agitation.
If they are formally charged, they are subject to prosecution within the military court system, in which there is no appeal. If convicted, they face up to seven-and-a-half years in prison.
The students adhere to a five-point platform of democracy, human rights, justice, public participation, and non-violence. Their arrest comes after a year of sustained attacks on freedom of expression and political freedom by the NCPO.
Hundreds of citizens have been summoned for arbitrary detention and “attitude adjustment” by the junta. Citizens have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms for allegedly committing lèse majesté by performing theatre plays, writing graffiti in bathrooms, and posting comments online.
In the name of “reform,” the junta aims to eliminate dissent.
The arrest of the 14 students has prompted an outpouring of support for them by university teachers and citizens across Thailand, who have organised petitions, visits to the prison, and candlelight vigils where the students are being held.
The latest attack on political freedom has been the surveillance and harassment of these teachers by the government authorities.
As university teachers outside Thailand, we call on current and former students and teachers around the world to join the campaign for their release by writing messages of solidarity.
How to join the campaign
Option #1: Write a message of solidarity with the imprisoned 14 students and their supporters on a piece of paper. Short messages, poems, art work are all encouraged!
Sign your name, current status [student/faculty/staff/alumni/retired], and institution. You may also choose to use only part of your name or to be anonymous.
Take a photograph of your message and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you feel more comfortable participating anonymously, sign up for a temporary email address with a service such as 10 Minute Mail and send us your message that way.
Option #2: Type your message and the signature you wish into the text of an email to email@example.com and we will write it on a piece of paper, photograph it for you, and add it to the collection.
SEND YOUR MESSAGE BY 12PM (AEST) ON 6 JULY.
We encourage you to share this message with your colleagues and to post your own image to social media.
On 7 July 2015, on the morning of the students’ appearance in military court for a hearing concerning the extension of their detention, we will release all of the photographs of messages as a collection via social media channels.
We will issue a press release reiterating the call for the immediate, unconditional release of the students and containing the total number of messages, number of people/institutions/countries represented as well as highlights of their contents.
International Solidarity for Thai Students and Teachers
Timeline of the students’ action: http://www.prachatai.com/english/node/5226
Concerned teachers and human rights activists visit the students: http://prachatai.org/english/node/5251
OHCHR on the arrests: http://bangkok.ohchr.org/files/ROB%20Press%20Statement%20300615.pdf
Scholars at Risk on the arrests: http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/50943/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15250&killorg=True
HRW on the arrests: http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/06/27/thailand-junta-arrests-14-student-activists
EDITOR’S UPDATE: The Military Court on Tuesday ruled that the students should be released from jail. However, they still face trial and a possible seven-year sentence for their peaceful protest against the ruling junta.