THAILAND: Detained professor starts hunger strike

An assistant professor of history at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University is on a hunger strike after being arrested by Thai authorities and detained without charge following last week's government crackdown on the Red Shirt protesters.

Dr Suthachai Yamprasert has been held since 24 May when he received a warrant to report for police for questioning. He was detained and sent to an army camp in the province of Saraburi some 100 kilometres from the Thai capital under orders from the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation,CRES.

Suthachai's lawyer Krisdang Nutcharat said his client went on hunger strike last Thursday when he was forbidden access to newspapers, radio or television, and prevented from reading academic books he brought with him to prepare his lectures for the upcoming semesters.

"CRES has seized the teaching materials he brought along to prepare university classes," Krisdang said, adding that Suthachai would continue his hunger strike "until he is allowed to read to prepare his lectures".

The lawyer described such treatment as illegal. He said that even under the Emergency Decree, suspects could only be subject to temporary confinement.

Suthachai was a former student activist at Bangkok's Thammasat Universitiy in the 1970s. Although he was not at Thammasat in October 1976 when police suppressed and arrested students at the university, leaving over 39 dead and more than 145 injured, his own involvement in student politics prompted him to flee into the jungle with other students.

Some 25 years later, Suthachai co-wrote a book on the government's investigations in 2000 into the 1976 coup. The bookm, State Crime in an Era of Change, used many verbatim eye-witness accounts by student leaders of the 1970s.

Suthachai concluded in his analysis that the crackdown on students and the subsequent coup had been planned in advance by the government.

A CRES spokesman, Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, said Suthachai had the right to go on hunger strike but that CRES was authorised to detain him under the Emergency Decree. He said the decree regulations had been followed by not detaining him in a prison and that other academics had criticised CRES but had not been detained.

The police had raided Suthachai's home on 23 May in the wake of the 19 May crackdown on anti-government protests. They told him his arrest had been ordered by CRES "to prevent him from joining activities which could lead to harmful incidents".

Suthachai turned himself in to the police the following day but without warning was sent to Adisorn military camp. Suthachai's name had been on a CRES list of people and organisations suspected of plotting to overthrown the monarchy.

Last month, Suthachai filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and CRES seeking damages for alleged defamation for linking him to a movement allegedly seeking to overthrow the monarchy. The lawsuit was rejected by the courts.

He believes his name was only on the list because he had campaigned to seek the release of a woman convicted of lese -majesty.

According to Bonsong Chaisingkananont, a lecturer in the department of philosophy at Bangkok's Silpakorn University and other academics campaigning for his release, Suthachai was being treated more severely than RedShirt leaders currently detained at the Naresuan Police camp.

Bonsong said in a letter to human rights organisations that because Suthachai was diabetic, a hunger strike would have serious health repercussions. Meanwhile, Suthachai 's lawyer is trying to get permission for him to be able to attend the funeral of his father in law.

Release this gentleman immediately, you country of thugs. Thailand's reputation is stained forever by the crimes of this "government".