AAS President Katherine Bowie, with the approval of the AAS executive board, has co-signed a statement with a number of academic bodies (including the International Institute for Asian Studies, European Association for Southeast Asian Studies, and others) in support of Dr. Chayan Vaddhanaphuti of Chiang Mai University. Dr. Chayan and four of his colleagues have been summoned to appear before the Royal Thai Police and respond to questions about statements made during the recent 13th International Thai Studies Conference (ICTS) in Chiang Mai. All five face potential charges of illegal political assembly.
Dr. Chayan has a long history of academic citizenship in hosting a wide range of workshops and international conferences, and has played a longstanding role in sponsoring students to conduct their fieldwork in Thailand. In addition to organizing ICTS, he also facilitated the recent meeting of the International Convention of Asia Scholars in Chiang Mai; each conference was attended by well over 1,000 participants. Both conferences received the approval and support of the provincial government.
As the joint statement explains,
The presence of military officers at the ICTS conference apparently prompted some individuals to affirm that the conference was an academic forum and not a military barracks, a statement made in defense of the academic nature of the conference. […] We believe that making this factual statement was a legitimate expression of their rights and liberties, as permitted under Article 4 of the 2017 Constitution; and one that in no way threatened Thailand’s peace and order. We would therefore urge that all charges be dropped against Dr. Chayan and the other individuals named above, who clearly had no intention of violating any laws on political assembly.
On behalf of the international academic community, we hope to see the investigation into Dr. Chayan and his colleagues concluded immediately.