Public seminar on ‘Democracy and Freedom of Expression’ in Ubon Ratchathani

By Saksith Saiyasombut There were a few events and discussion panels on freedom of speech and how the lèse majesté laws is heavily contributing to the continuous deterioration of that in Thailand in recent years. There was the panel discussion with Sulak, Pravit, Marshall and Anderson hosted by Siam Voices contributor Lisa Gardner, then at the FCCT (where the former event was initially supposed to take place) held an event with Professor Tongchai Winichakul and Professor Andrew Walker earlier this week. Also, Al Jazeera English devoted a whole episode of their weekly "101 East" program on Thailand's draconian Article 112 (lèse majesté), including a panel talk with Sulak, a hapless Panitan Wattanayagorn (government spokesperson under Abhisit and now back being an academic) and the dimwitted statements of Dr. Tul Sitthisomwong (leader of the reactionary, pro-112 multi color shirts).

On this coming Friday there's another public event, that discusses all of the above. However, this time it is a little bit different: First off it takes place in Ubon Ratchathani, and secondly it widens the scope not only on lèse majesté, but also on whether or not democratic values, human rights and personal freedom are actually compatible with Thai culture. The speakers are well-known to regular observers and readers:  Thitinan Pongsudhirak, one of the most quoted academic on Thai politics, Prachatai's Chiranuch "Jiew" Premchaiporn, Preut Taotawin and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, currently one of the most active academics and also a staunch activist against 112 - not without consequences. The even is hosted by Dr. Titipol Phakdeewanich, academic and Bangkok Post contributor.

Blurb down here or on the Facebook event page.

A Public Seminar: ‘Democracy and Freedom of Expression’ (in Thai only)

Friday the 22nd of June 2012, from 9.00 am – 1.30 pm Faculty of Political Science, Ubon Ratchathani University

The event is funded by the European Union (EU)

The seminar aims to promote a better understanding of the ways in which democracy, freedom of speech, and human rights are interconnected and cannot be separated if there is to be effective and tangible progress in this regard. The dialogue on this topic will aim towards a clear understanding of the importance of long-term goals in providing a sense of direction and purpose in relation to the promotion of the levels of both political participation and political awareness of the Thai population.

Since the 2006 coup d'état, we have continued to observe the problem of having human rights being more properly respected in a country, which has developed increasingly entrenched colour-code politics. Furthermore, the debate over the reform of ‘Article 112’ has become highly politicised, which has acted to distract from the key principle of promoting human rights.

08.30 – 09.00 am Registration and Coffee

09.00 – 09.20 am Welcoming remarks: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chaiyan Ratchakul, Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, Ubon Ratchathani University

09.20 – 10.45 am: Speakers

"The importance of freedom of expression in a democratic society" Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

"Freedom of the media in Thailand: challenges and prospects" Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Director of Prachatai

"Freedom of Expression: Does it exist in Thailand?" Dr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Associate Professor at the Centre for South-east Asian Studies, Kyoto University, Japan

"Grassroots perspectives on freedom of expression and democracy in Thailand" Assistant Professor. Preut Taotawin, Lecturer at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon ratchathani University

Moderator Dr. Titipol Phakdeewanich, Faculty of Political Science, Ubon Ratchathani University

10.45 – 1.30 am: Q & A, Discussion