Thailand: Assault and threats against human rights defender Professor Worajet Pakeerat

Front Line Defenders, February 29, 2012

On 29 February 2012 human rights defender Professor Worajet Pakeerat was assaulted by two men at Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law at Tha Prachan Campus in Bangkok, where he is an associate professor in public law.

He is a member of the Nitirat (Enlightened Jurists), a group of law professors from Thammasat University which conduct studies on the Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code – known commonly as lese majeste law – and its detrimental effects on freedom of expression. Article 112 states that “whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir Apparent shall be punished with imprisonment between 3-15 years”. Nitirat has worked closely with the Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112 in collecting 10,000 signatures to be submitted to the Parliament calling for the law to be amended.

On 29 February 2012, at approximately 3pm, Worajet Pakeerat was assaulted by two men at the car park of the Faculty of Law, while he was talking to another lecturer. He noticed someone walking behind him and then was hit on the right side of his head a few times and was punched by another assailant. The assailants told him that they had been waiting for him that morning. His glasses were knocked off his head and therefore he could not identify the two men before they drove away on a motorcycle. The human rights defender’s face was bruised and he suffered a nose bleed as a result of the attack. His pain from the attack is ongoing.

Front Line Defenders has been informed that two suspects turned themselves in to the police at Chanasongkram precinct today at 11.30am highlighting that they were the perpetrators of the attack. The police have filed a complaint against the two men for physical assault causing mental and physical harm to Worajet Pakeerat. They were granted bail at around 3pm later today.

This is not the first time that the human rights defender and other members of the Nitirat group have faced threats. On 1 February 2012, during the radio programme Talks News and Music Program on 96.5 Mhz, an unidentified person called into the show and said that he wanted to behead Worajet Pakeerat for daring to push for the amendment of the lese majeste law. On 27 January 2012, an effigy of Worajet Pakeerat was burnt during a protest outside the Thammasat University. On another occasion, an unidentified man drove to Thammasat University Lampang campus and told a student to pass a message onto Nitirat that someone would come and shot them if they came to the campus.

Front Line Defenders believes that the assault of Worajet Pakeerat is directly related to his work in the defence of human rights and in particular his work in relation to amending the strict lese majeste law. Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Worajet Pakeerat and members of the Nitirat group particularly in light of the recent assault on Worajet Pakeerat.