The military ordered university students in eastern Thailand to abort a movie screening, reasoning that some of the movie contents are threats to national security.

On last Thursday, a facebook page titled ‘Bangsaenrama’, a facebook page of a movie festival organised by students of liberal art faculties of Burapha University, a university in the eastern province of Chonburi, revealed that the military contacted the students to abort the film screening.

Bangsaenrama film festival is movie festival that was officially organised for the first time by students of Mass Communication Faculty of Burapha University. It has been three years that the event offers a platform for students from many other universities in Thailand to show their films and other alternative domestic and international films.

This year festival’s programme, which was scheduled to be held from 23-24 April, consist 30 films one of which was ‘Boundary’, a controversial movie directed by a Thai director, which offers critical perspectives on Preah Vihear Temple conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.

According to the movie festival facebook page, the military told the university that the event  organisers must ask the military and Ministry of Culture first if all the movies would be permitted to be shown.

The military first contacted the university on 22 April and specifically asked the organiser to withdrew the ‘Boundary’ out of the festival’s program, saying it contains sensitive contents, which could harm national security.

The organisers decided to remove the controversial movie and other short films with sensitive political contents upon the military’s request.

On 23 April, however, the military contacted the festival organisers again and told them to abort the film screening completely.

Claulid Midam, a lecturer of Music and Performing Arts Faculty of Burapha University, said that the military’s action stirred up fear in the university.  

“It’s bad that we are the tertiary educational institution and we didn’t let the students decide. We decided for them what’s good and what’s bad. [The military] used this kind of authority to create fear, which succeeded to the point that the students didn’t say anything against it [military’s action],” said the lecturer.

Nontawat Numbenchapol, the director of ‘Boundary’, said that the military's decision to ban his film and forcefully cancelled the film festival all together was unreasonable.

“If it’s really a threat to national security, for the last two or three years that this film has been screening, Thai nation would have collapsed by now,” said Nontawat. “I’m a bit confused, the film [Boundary] was screened before and many have already seen it. Recently, the Southeast Asian Faculty of Chiang Mai University just showed the movie two months ago and there was no problem.”

The students and lecturers who organised the event had to reimburse all the money to the audiences, producers, and the production team of the cancelled-film festival. 

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Thai authorities carried out a massive search on student dormitories around Ramkhamhaeng University, an open university in Bangkok with large Muslim student population from Southern Thailand, claiming to search for illicit drugs.   

According to Muslim Students Federation of Thailand (MUSTFETH), about 1,800 military and police officers in plain clothes and uniforms on Saturday carried out a large scale search on student dormitories around Ramkhamhaeng University in Bang Kapi District, eastern part of Bangkok, including, student dormitories in adjacent areas along Lat Phrao Road and Wang Thonglang District.

The officers claimed that the operation was a part of the program called ‘Peaceful Ramkhamhaeng’ and forced students to cooperate with the search.

The officers also asked 10 students to undergo urinary test to find illicit drug intake. However, no evidence of illicit drug was found, MUSTFETH reported.

On Sunday, MUSTFETH issued a statement pointing out that the operation was a violation of human rights and was contradicting to the state’s attempts to foster political reconciliation and mend the conflicts in Thailand’s restive Muslim South.

The organisation demands that the authorities must clarify the purposes of the search operation and identify which articles of the constitution allows them to carry out such operation.  

The collection of DNA samples of suspects against the suspects’ will should not be permitted as well because it violates of human rights and might be abused by officers, MUSTFETH added.    

The Muslim student organisation concluded in the statement that such operation would deepen distrust between Muslim people and authorities, which would put greater obstacles in the reconciliation and peace processes in the restive Deep South.