Scholars at Risk has called on the global academic community to join a campaign urging the Thai authorities to release from prison and drop lèse majesté charges against law student and activist Jatupat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa for a Facebook post.
In a statement on 3 August, Scholars at Risk or SAR said it was “concerned over the arrest and continued imprisonment” of Boonpattararaksa, a student at Khon Kaen University, “based on non-violent expressive activity”.
SAR said that on 2 December the student reportedly posted on his Facebook page a BBC Thai article about King Rama X, who had ascended to the throne that month.
In Thailand it is illegal to defame, insult or threaten a member of the royal family – king, queen, heir-apparent or regent – under one of the world’s strictest lèse majesté laws. The punishment is three to 15 years imprisonment.
Authorities arrested Boonpattararaksa the following day and charged him with lèse majesté under Article 112 of the criminal code, “marking the first instance of a student detained in connection with such a charge since the new king's ascension to the throne".
“Although the article has reportedly been reposted by more than 2,500 others, we understand that only Boonpattararaksa was arrested and charged with a crime for doing so,” said the statement.
“SAR further understands that Boonpattararaksa was released on bail the day after his arrest, but was re-arrested and his bail revoked on 22 December, after he posted additional Facebook comments regarding the circumstances of his arrest and prosecution.
“On 10 February 2017, following weeks of protests and calls for his release, the Khon Kaen Provincial Court formally indicted Boonpattararaksa on charges of lèse majesté and violation of Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, which criminalises the ‘importation of illegal computer content’,” SAR continued.
“On 30 June, the court denied Boonpattararaksa's request for bail for the 10th time, preventing him from taking a required training course for law graduates and jeopardising his academic and professional future. Following over seven months of detention, Boonpattararaksa spent his birthday in jail on 31 July.”
SAR called for the international community to send letters, emails and faxes urging the authorities to release and drop any charges against Boonpattararaksa arising out of non-violent exercise of the rights to expression, association or academic freedom, and to ensure that the case proceeds in line with Thailand’s obligations under international law. There is a draft letter and contact details on its website.
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