Criminal case against Thai scientists dismissed
February 13, 2019
Mr. Chaipong (second from left) and Dr. Chayan (second from right) with the three other individuals against whom charges were brought.
[Photo credit: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights]
On December 25, 2018, the Chiang Mai District Court in Thailand dismissed a criminal case that had been brought against Thai anthropologists Chayan Vaddhanaphuti and Chaipong Samnieng and three other individuals for peacefully protesting during an academic conference. The court’s decision followed Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s revocation, two weeks prior, of an ordinance banning political gatherings of five or more people, under which the individuals had been prosecuted.
In August 2017, authorities summoned Dr. Chayan, Mr. Chaipong, and the three other individuals to the Chang Phuak Police Station in Chiang Mai and accused them of violating the National Council for Peace and Order’s then ban on political gatherings. The accusation stemmed from the group’s participation in the 2017 International Conference on Thai Studies at Chiang Mai University, a private conference which brought together scholars from around the world and had the official support of the Governor of the Province of Chiang Mai. The event was heavily surveilled by both uniform and plainclothes military and police, which prompted Dr. Chayan—the organizer of the conference—Mr. Chaipong, and others to hold up a banner that read, “An academic seminar is not a military base.” On July 4, 2018, after nearly a year of postponements, Dr. Chayan, Mr. Chaipong, and three others were formally indicted for “holding an unlawful political gathering.” Had they been convicted, they would have faced up to six months of imprisonment, a fine of up to 10,000 baht (approximately U.S. $300), or both.