I was aware that academic freedom in Thailand was not too good when I attended the International Convention of Asia Scholars in Chiang Mai in 2017. Still, I was surprised at the sight of armed soldiers guarding the entrance to the conference center, silently watching us parade in with our small nameplates around our necks.
After the conference, the organizers issued a statement saying that our Thai colleagues from the host institution had problems with the authorities because some of the conference participants had not been able to feed themselves to the soldiers: "This is an academic conference, not a barracks," someone had apparently said. in passing. And that was just too good for the military junta, which has ruled Thailand since 2014.
Often harsh judgments are an expression of a lack of empathy and imagination.
Director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) Duncan McCargo says in his new book, Fighting for Virtue. Justice and Politics in Thailand, also about the pressure that Thailand's academic freedom has been under. A pressure that is exerted not only by the military and the authorities in general, but also by the people themselves, who patrol each other's freedom of thought and expression. During McCargo's fieldwork in 2012, critical professors at Thamassat University were “harassed” by their own colleagues and students.
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