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Friday, January 23, 2009

Defend Thai Socialist Giles Ji Ungpakorn

An edited version of the letter below was published today in the London Guardian. Please make use of the letter and organize protests/pressure on your local Thai embassy. The threat to Giles is very real, and Amnesty International has been shamefully slow in taking his case up.


We wish to express our deep concern at the decision of the Thai Police Special Branch to prosecute Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn,of the Political Science Faculty at Chulalongkorn University, with lèse majesté – that is, with insulting
King Bhumibol. Mr Ungpakorn is a well-known commentator on Thai politics, widely quoted in the international media. The charge arises from his book A Coup for the Rich, published in 2007. In that book he criticized the coup of 19 September 2006, in which the military seized political power in Thailand. Mr Ungpakorn argued that the army, along with the rest of the Thai establishment, used the monarchy to legitimize its political interventions. This is the kind of analysis that political scientists make as a matter of course, but various bookshops withdrew A Coup for the Rich from circulation, forcing Mr Ungpakorn to make it available on the Internet.

Now his academic freedom and basic citizenship rights have come under much more serious attack with this prosecution. Lèse majesté has fallen into disuse in most of the world as a relic of the pre-democratic past. Thailand is an exception. The Economist commented on 14 August 2008: 'The king said in 2005 that he could be criticised and was not afraid of this. But those posing as his majesty's protectors conveniently forget his words. So, despite their democratic institutions, Thais are not free to debate matters regarding their head of state, including appropriate limits on criticizing him.'

Lèse majesté carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, and MPs from the government party headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva, which came to office thanks to the connivance of the army, want to increase this to 25 years. The prosecution of Mr Ungpakorn therefore represents the most fundamental attack on freedom of speech. We demand that the charges against him are unconditionally withdrawn.

Yours etc.,

Professor Gilbert Achcar, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Professor Luc Boltanski, École des hautes études en sciences sociales

Professor Dennis Brutus, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Professor Alex Callinicos, King’s College London

George Galloway MP

Susan George

Professor Barbara Harriss-White, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford

Professor Domenico Losurdo, University of Urbino

Professor David McNally, York University, Toronto

China Miéville, Writer

Professor Beverley Skeggs, Goldsmiths, University of London

and

Dr. Geoff Abbott, Newcastle University

Dr Talat Ahmed, Goldsmiths, University of London

Dr Kieran Allen, University Collhe Dublin

Heidi Armbuster, University of Southampton

Dr Sam Ashman, University of East London

Professor Tayfun Attay, Ankara University

Dr Miryam Aouragh, University of Oxford/University of Amsterdam

Hans Baer, University of Melbourne
Professor Abigail Bakan, Queen’s University, Canada

Chris Bambery, Editor, Socialist Worker

Colin Barker, Manchester Metropolitan University (Emeritus)

Dr John Baxter, Open University

Dr Tom Behan, University of Kent

Dr Sue Blackwell, University of Birmingham

Professor Patrick Bond, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Helen Bowman, Manchester Metropolitan University

Pat Brady, Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards

Dr David Camfield, University of Manitoba

Mark Campbell, London Metropolitan University, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Dr Steve Cannon, University of Sunderland

Joe Carolan, Editor, Socialist Aotearoa, New Zealand

Agger Carsten, Denmark

Jim Casey, Vice President, Fire Brigade Employees Union, New South Wales

Dr. John Charlton

Professor Simon Clarke, University of Warwick

Paul Coates, President, University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association

Dr Alejandro Colas, Birkbeck College University of London

Petros Constantinou,,Campaign GENOA 2001 Greece

Adrian Cousins, UNITE rep, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

James Cussens, University of York

Bernice Daly, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Neil Davidson, University of Strathclyde

Dr Jonathan Davies, University of Warwick

Dr Andy Durgan, Barcelona University

James Eaden, Chesterfield College, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Manfred Ecker, Vienna

Professor James Fairhead, University of Sussex
Dr Sue Ferguson, Wilfrid Laurier University

John Fernandes, Co-Chair, Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards

Panos Garganas, National Technical University of Athens

Lindsey German, Convenor, Stop the War Coalition (pc)

Professor Mike Gonzalez, University of Glasgow (Emeritus)

Dr Peter Goodwin, University of Westminster

Sarah Gregson, Vice President Academic, National Tertiary Education Union, University of New South Wales

Dr Phil Griffiths, University of Southern Queensland

Sylvia Hale, Member of Parliament, New South Wales

Professor Nigel Harris, University College London (Emeritus)

Marion Hersh, University of Glasgow

Tom Hickey, University of Brighton, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Brian Ingham, Richmond-upon-Thames College, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Feyzi Ismail, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Nick James, University of Leicester, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Professor Seongjin Jeong, Gyeongsang National University, South Korea

John Kaye, Member of Parliament, New South Wales

Paul Kellogg, Trent University, Peterborough, Canada

Dr Anna Laerke, Open University

Jens Laerke, Journalist

Dr. Mogens Laerke, University of Chicago

Maeve Landman, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Councillor Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University

Melanie Lazarow, Secretary, National Tertiary Education Union, University of Melbourne

Dr Elizabeth Lawrence, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Professor Michael Lebowitz, San Francisco University

Craig Lewis, Coleg Harlech, National Executive Committee, University and College Union (pc)

Dr Nancy Lindisfarne, School of Oriental and African Studies, London (Emeritus)

Dr Steve Ludlam, University of Sheffield

Alan Maass, SocialistWorker.org, USA

Judith McVey, Coursework Education Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate
Student Association

Georges Menahem, University of Paris-13/Dalhousie University, Canada

Laura Miles, Bradford College

Dr Sally Mitchison, Consultant Psychiatrist

Professor Colin Mooers, Ryerson University

Dr Carlo Morelli, University of Dundee

Dr Tim Morris

Pablo Mukherjee, University of Warwick

Antony Nanson, Bath Spa University

Dr Jonathan Neale, Bath Spa University

Jakob Nerup, National Board, Red-Green Alliance, Canada

Professor Alan Norrie, King’s College London

Allison O'Toole, Joint Queer Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate
Student Association

Dr George Paizis, University College London

Jamie Parker, Mayor of Leichhardt, New South Wales

Dr John Parrington, Worcester College Oxford

Dr Diana Paton, University of Newcastle

David Pejoski, Joint Queer Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate Student
Association

Professor Malcolm Povey, University of Leeds, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Dr Nat Queen, University of Birmingham

Maloti Ray, Research officer, University of Melbourne Graduate Student
Association

Lee Rhiannon, Member of Parliament, New South Wales

Dr. Elaheh Rostami-Povey, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Professor Werner Ruff, University of Kassel (Emeritus)

Professor Alfredo Saad Filho, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Dr Alison Sealey, University of Birmingham

Dr Alan Sears, Ryerson University, Toronto

Dr Claude Serfati, Université de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

Anwar Shah, International Student Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate
Student Association

Yiannis Sifakakis, Stop the War Coalition Greece

Sasha Simic, USDAW Shop Steward, Central Books (pc)

Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM)

Professor Colin Sparks, University of Westminster

Dr Simon Speck, Derby University

Maria Styllou, editor, Socialism from Below (Greece)

Dr. Viren Swami, University of Westminster

J.G. Taylor, Leeds Metropolitan University

Jennifer Toomey, University of Newcastle

Dr Alberto Toscano, Goldsmiths, University of London

Charles-André Udry, Editions Page deux, Switzerland

University and College Union, Branch Committee, University of Dundee

Turkan Uzun, Antikapitalist, Turkey

Professor Kees van der Pijl, University of Sussex

Vegard Velle, member of national executive committee, Red Party, Norway

Sean Vernell, City & Islington College, National Executive Committee, University and College Union

Christine Vié, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr. Max Wallis, Cardiff University

Dr Vron Ware, Open University

Tony Williams, Activities Officer, University of Melbourne Graduate Student
Association

Dr Jim Wolfreys, King’s College London

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