BANGKOK – Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan- ocha said on Friday that no political discussion is allowed in public under martial law which is currently effective nationwide.
His comments followed Thursday’s event in which a number of Thammasat University lecturers were barred by military officers from giving a public speech entitled the Fall of Dictatorial Rule in Foreign Countries, which they viewed as “more or less relevant” to the Thai politics.
Prayuth aired his support for the ban on all political activities including academic seminars and panel discussions held on a university campus or elsewhere in the country.
The premier confirmed that no such activity will be tolerated under the martial law which prohibits five people or more from gathering to discuss politics anywhere nationwide.
The martial law was declared as an aftermath of the May 22 military coup orchestrated by Prayuth, who is retiring as army chief at the end of this month.
“That kind of seminar caused a public gathering with some political intent. (The lecturers) obviously discussed political matters. So they were asked not to talk about politics for the time being,” said the premier, who concurrently heads the National Council for Peace and Order, the official name of the military junta whom he led to seize power from a civilian government under deposed premier Yingluck Shinawatra.
According to Prayuth, all public seminars, albeit declared to be entirely academic, must be given prior permission from the ruling military as long as martial law is concerned.
The Thammasat lecturers, namely Prachak Kongkirati and Niti Eowsriwong, were stopped from delivering their “academic views on foreign dictatorial rule” to some 100 students and other interested people at the university’s Rangsit campus and were taken to a nearby police station for “talk.”
Several army officers who showed up in plainclothes on the campus and at the police station told them to no longer do such activity without prior permission from the military, according to Prachak.
“The military considered it a political gathering which is not currently allowed under martial law,” said the political scientist to reporters following the one-hour “talk” at Klong Luang police station.
The noted academics were finally freed to leave and no charges were filed against them, however.
Similar events, publicly declared as “academic seminars”, had been earlier banned by the military under the martial law over the past several months.
Meanwhile, the Liberal League of Thammasat for Democracy, an independent group of political scientists and law lecturers, has repeatedly called for freedom in the expression of views among members of the academia and the public pertaining to political topics everywhere.
The group also pressed Thammasat rector Somkid Lertpaitoon to choose between the current top post at the university or a seat on the National Legislative Assembly, all members of which were handpicked by Prayuth.
It has protested against his apparent intent to assume both positions concurrently.