At the end of May, we posted on a call by Professor Thongchai Winichakul, made at New Mandala, for academics and three sets of conference organizers to think carefully about the consequences of holding academic conferences in unfree Thailand under the military dictatorship.
There was an unsatisfactory response from the International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS), seemingly misunderstanding the situation in Thailand, although New Mandala’s new format seems to have removed the comments from the article.
Now New Mandala has published a response from Professor Chayan Vaddhanaphuti on behalf of the Organising Committee of the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies (ICTS13). This story has comments with it, currently featuring several comments by Andrew MacGregor Marshall.
For us, the critical point in Chayan’s post is that he affirms that any academically-qualified paper will be accepted, no matter what the topic, but adds this:
It goes without saying that presenters who wish to discuss issues of political sensitivity, such as the military coup, the monarchy or Article 112, will need to use their own judgement in presenting their arguments. The Organising Committee will neither interfere in topic selection, nor will the Committee or host institution (Chiang Mai University) be in a position to guarantee the safety of presenters whom the government at the time of the conference deems to have breached Thai laws.
Academics wanting to present on a range of political topics will need to consider the possibility that they could be arrested, detained or expelled from Thailand. We would also suggest that the Organizing Committee’s response is fraught with problems and unexplained issues. Think about the monarchy. If a paper is considered lese majeste by the regime, then those who accepted the paper for presentation and who provided a platform are also liable for prosecution under Article 112.