Last week I added my name to a letter expressing concern about the unwillingness of CU Books at Chulalongkorn University to sell two important books about Thailand’s coup [letter1.jpg; letter2.jpg]. The letter read as follows:

As academics who do research in Thailand we are concerned about your decision not to sell either the special issue of Fa Dieo Kan on the September 2006 coup or Giles Ji Ungpakorn’s book, A Coup for the Rich. We understand that these books may contain claims that many readers will find controversial, but a commitment to academic freedom requires precisely the willingness to allow opinions which one finds controversial. It is especially disconcerting when the decision to censor controversial opinions comes not from the government itself but from a university bookstore, merely on the basis of the possibility that government officials will object to the book, as was stated by CU Books representatives. Such self-censorship is a disturbing sign that basic human rights and civil liberties in Thailand are at risk. We strongly urge you to reconsider this decision and do your part in protecting academic freedom in Thailand by allowing the sale of both the special issue of Fa Dieo Kan and Coup for the Rich.

Today, along with the other signatories, I received an email response from CU Books. Here it is:

Dear “24 Academics”, Thank you for your letter, registered mailed to us by Mr. Ji Ungpakorn. On this issue, may we urge you to read thoroughly the Nation’s published on Saturday March 10, 2007 [news.jpg]. Then, kindly see to the Book Center’s complete letter dated March 7, 2007 with photos attached [cu_letter1.jpg; cu_letter2.jpg]. Do booksellers have Human Rights ? Why must this Chula Book Center be the victim? Our staffs have long endured Mr. Ji with case after case, year after year. What is the real intention, yet to find out ? May we provide you all academics with both side information. We love our country as much as you love your country. Each country has its own culture, history, and different. However, in common, we do not believe in freedom beyond responsibility or liberty beyond law. Your kind consideration and justification would be much appreciated.

Respectfully yours,
Miss Uraiwan Kornvityasinn.
Manager, C.U.Book Center

Note that the response refers only to Ji ‘s book, not the Fa Dieo Kan special issue. Is CU Books stocking the Fa Dieo Kan volume on the coup or not? And can anyone provide further insight into what appears to be a running feud between Ji Ungpakorn and CU Books. Reports from New Mandala readers would be very welcome.