Academics predict 'climate of fear'

Academics predict 'climate of fear'

'Heavy-handed' army blamed for fugitives

Ordering critics of the coup to report to the military will create a climate of fear, not reconciliation, summoned academics have said.

Gothom Arya of Mahidol University's Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies answered his summons last weekend, and predicted orders to report will continue for some time.

The summonses will not yield any long-term results for the military's reconciliation efforts, he said, and will only serve to subdue opposition in the short term.

"I would like to plead with military leaders to consider more sustainable and inclusive changes," Mr Gothom said. "The military seems to be presiding exclusively over every step, especially in drafting a statute to run the country."

Mr Gothom, who was summoned after issuing a statement denouncing the coup a day after it took place, was not charged or detained.

The peace scholar said the reconciliation centres being promoted could only yield piecemeal results, since the main parties were not involved.

Mr Gothom suggested the military should abandon its rigidity and discuss with others how to draft a concise statute which specifies clear electoral rules.

He said a concise statute should be drafted to allow a quick election to be held. This would get political parties, including the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties, and technocrats trusted by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), to form a government to work on the reform agenda and draft a constitution.

This draft charter should then be put forward to the people in a national referendum.

Some coup critics have claimed that by delegating authority to army regions and allowing them to issue summonses, which some have mishandled, the NCPO has forced scholars into hiding.

Many members of the Nitirat Group, who have been critical of many governments, have left Thailand.

The 3rd Army region, in charge of the North, a red-shirt stronghold, sent several units to approach activists and scholars who have signed an appeal for the military to end the coup.

Some of the units visited coup critics at their homes at night or at their places of work, and interrogated them there. Some were visited more than once.

Book Republic, a Chiang Mai bookshop that has hosted talks on unconventional topics such as lese majeste laws, the third gender, and socialism, was also raided by the military.

About a dozen academics and activists answered summonses on Monday at the 3rd Army Region's Kawila camp in Chiang Mai.

One of them, professor Chaiyan Rajchagool, 65, dean of the Ubon Ratchathani University, said the military had not charged anyone, but had asked academics and activists for understanding and cooperation.

Mr Chaiyan was at his Chiang Mai family home recovering from a stroke. He arrived in a wheelchair for the meeting with Maj Gen Suthas Jarumanee, commander of the 7th Infantry Division and Maj Gen Sarayuth Rungsri, commanding general of the Military Circles 33rd Unit.

Others attending the meeting included Chiang Mai University assistant law professor Somchai Preechasilapakul, Suchart Setthamalinee from Payap University, and the owner of Book Republic, Pinkaew Luangaramsri.

"The military promised not to harass critics of the coup, but warned that they will take action if they see evidence of intellectuals stirring up anti-coup sentiments," one attendee said.

Mr Suchart said the military's assurance from Monday's meeting, which he described as a "gentleman's agreement", would help allay the fears of intellectuals.

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