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The Harvard Crimson : Troubles with Thai Studies

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  • The Harvard Crimson : Troubles with Thai Studies

    Troubles with Thai Studies
    Ilya Garger

    As human rights in Thailand deteriorate under a military junta, Harvard is collaborating with key supporters of the recent coup to create a permanent Thai Studies program at the university. These individuals, most prominently former Foreign Ministers Surin Pitsuwan and Surakiart Satirathai, have spearheaded a campaign to raise $6 million for the program, which they have characterizedleading the initiative, wrote in an emailed statement to me that the program would not be tied to specific political interests and Harvard conducts due diligence on its donors. However, by lending credibility to allies of a totalitarian regime and allowing them to use Harvard as a platform, the university is doing Thailand and itself a disservice.

    In a Bangkok Post editorialarbitrarily detainedbornsupported military dictatorships, endorsed successive coups, and presided over a cult of personality enforced with more than half a century of indoctrination, propaganda, censorship and occasional violence. Criticism of the monarchy is illegalharshest.

    In its eagerness to secure money for the permanent program, which would include a tenured professorship and expand on lectures and courses introduced in 2012 with Foreign Ministry funding, Harvard has played along with Thai royalists. The Harvard Asia Center in 2012 named Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the daughter of King Bhumibol and his possible successor, as a Distinguished Non-Resident Fellow. It is difficult to assess her qualifications because information about the royal family is tightly controlled. Her achievements in academics, languages, music and art have been touteddonationconservative elitecourts, appointed bodies and the armed forces. Most recently, the conservative establishment supportedroyally-endorsed junta now ruling Thailand. Surin was a prominent public voice rationalizing the actions of mobs (led by stalwarts of his ironically named Democrat Party) that stormed government offices, physically obstructed elections, and agitated for a coup. Surakiart and Surin have been mentioned as potential Prime Ministers in an upcoming military-appointed administration.

    While the junta claimsattemptedinclude well-intentioned and politically astute individuals who are aware that the some of the money being raised comes with an agenda. Michael Herzfeld in particular has a strong record of standing up for academic freedom. Harvard must ensure that the program is funded and run transparently, and that it is not co-opted by coup apologists or used to legitimize the monarchy. In the meantime, Harvard could burnish its credentials on Thailand by providing support for Thai academics forced into hiding or exile for criticizing the coup and its backers.

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  • #2

    Wed, 20/08/2014

    The Harvard Crimson


    • #3

      Thu, 21/08/2014

      After the Harvard Crimson


      • #4
        Thai academic makes apparent death threat over Harvard article11X8dqV.jpg

        Andrew MacG Marshall @zenjournalist Follow Peera Hemarajata, a Thai at UCLA who tweets as @ruiNruiN, threatens to kill author of Harvard Crimson article
        9:22 PM - 20 Aug 2014 Cambodia, Cambodia
        This article was temporarily removed from
        A response article appearing on
        Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and an expert in First Amendment rights, said he thinks the comment is unlikely to be seen as a true threat because of its absurdity and because Hemarajata has no history of violence or past relationship with Garger.


        • #5
          Death threat made with medical jargon over op-ed
          August 22, 2014

          LOS ANGELES -- A UCLA researcher is accused of making a death threat to a writer about an opinion piece he wrote for the Harvard Crimson titled "Troubles with Thai Studies," CBS Los Angeles reports.

          "I swear that if I saw this [expletive] on the street I'd elbow his middle meningeal artery and leave him dead from epidural hematoma," UCLA microbiologist Peera Hemarajata allegedly posted on Facebook.

          The bizarre threat was aimed at writer Ilya Garger, who is in Hong Kong.

          Garger said the point of his piece was to discuss Harvard taking money from one political side in Thailand.

          "It was surprising to see that a doctor, and especially one at UCLA, would say something so silly. I had to read up on Wikipedia to figure out what it is that he was going to do to me," Garger said.

          Garger said he isn't surprised about Hemarajata's reaction because he purportedly said on his Facebook post that he is still loyal to the Thai monarchy. But Garger is surprised that UCLA says it cannot take action against Hemarajata for making a perceived threat.

          UCLA said in a statement: "While UCLA and UCLA Health System abhor violence and condemn any threat of violence, we have no jurisdiction or authority to censor such hateful comments made in social media when they are made outside the course and scope of an employee's work."

          "The university ought to consider taking stronger measures than just saying that they're not responsible," Garger said.

          CBS Los Angeles tried to get a comment from Hemarajata, but his Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts have all been taken down.


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