Thai Academic Protests Attempts to Isolate him

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a former Thai diplomat, author and academic now teaching at Kyoto University in Japan, has become a particular target of the junta which staged a May 22 coup in Thailand. Pavin’s passport has now been revoked, there is a warrant out for his arrest, and he has been made stateless. He has written this open letter to

Sihasak Puangketkaew, Permanent Secretary to the Thai Foreign Minister, protesting his treatment at the hands of the Thai consulate in Kyoto.

Dear Mr Sihasak:

The National Council for Peace and Order, the governing body of the coup makers, has issued two orders summoning me to report. The first one was issued onon 24 May and the second on 9 June. I made my point clear. I rejected the calls to summon because I had denounced the legitimacy of the coup and would not take orders from despots. Moreover, I had a commitment with Kyoto University, where I am teaching. We are now in the middle of the semester. Then, on 13 June, the NCPO issued an arrest warrant against me for failing to turn myself in. Finally, on 9 July, the Thai Foreign Ministry revoked my passport. I have become a stateless person.

From the first two orders to the revocation of my passport, the Thai Foreign Ministry, in particular the Thai Consul General in Osaka, has never contacted me to inform me of the developments on my case. This is a responsibility of the consulate to keep me informed of the situation. Finally, on 11 July, I had to write an email, also sent via fax, to Vichit Chitvimarn, the Thai Consul General in Osaka, to request official notification of the revocation of my passport.

An internal source informed me that the consulate claimed not to be able to contact me. This was because the consulate did ask me to visit to have my previous passport cancelled (because I was applying for a new passport at the time). But I did not respond to the call and still could not find time to get to the consulate to cancel my previous passport. Not hearing back from me, the consulate assumed that it had lost contact with me, even though in the past we had been in regular contact via email. Moreover, on 13 June, the day the arrest warrant was issued against me, Consul General Vichit paid a visit to my office in Kyoto, at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, to meet my director. The purpose of his visit was twofold. One was to give legitimacy to the coup. The second was to question my professionalism. Vichit told my supervisor that I was a biased academic who gave only one-sided information about the coup. Although Vichit had come to my office, the consulate still claimed not to know my whereabouts. Thus I have never been notified of the orders, arrest warrant, and the cancellation of my passport. Such claims reflect the lack of responsibility of the part of the Thai Consul General.

After I wrote an email to the consul general, on 13 July, at 7 pm, a staff member called me to let me know that the consulate could not notify me because it had not received instructions from the Consular Department at the Thai Foreign Ministry in Bangkok. This raises several questions including why the Thai Foreign Ministry did not give an instruction to inform me. Also, the fact that the staff at the consulate called me up, instead of writing an email to me shows a concern that such email, or any written document, could be used as an evidence to confirm the failure of the consulate in pursuing this matter.

But such behavior only leads to a single conclusion that the NCPO, or the Thai Foreign Ministry, has attempted to isolate me, by choosing not to contact me, for reasons I do not know.

I realize that Sihasak may have been busy what with travelling the world, working as a mouthpiece for the NCPO in justifying the unlawful coup and in lobbying foreign nations not to impose further sanctions. I also realize that he has been busy in lobbying the NCPO to become to the next Thai ambassador to Tokyo, a post that will come open in October.

But as the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Ministry, you have a duty to inform me of what has happened to my status in Japan. Your failure only stresses the incompetency on your part and that of your aides.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun Associate Professor Center for Southeast Asian Studies Kyoto University 13 July 2014