Charnvit Kasetsiri: Thai Historian calls for unity to fight lawsuit against author

Historians in the News

Historian Charnvit Kasetsiri has launched a fund-raising campaign to fight a defamation charge filed by former Thammasat University rector Khunying Nongyao Chaiseree for comments in a thesis on former prime minister Pridi Banomyong. Mr Charnvit likened the defamation charge as ''terror against intellectuals'' and called on academics to support a ''historical academic freedom fund'' to fight it.

The retired historian was speaking at a Chulalongkorn University seminar on academic freedom in historical works.

Mr Charnvit will testify at the Bangkhen police station today as chairman of the exhibition's organising sub-committee for the centenary celebration of late statesman Pridi Banomyong and director of the Thammasat University's archives project.

In 2000, the project published The Images of Pridi Banomyong and Thai Politics: 1932-1983, a book written in 1994 by Morakot Jewachinda for a master's degree in history at Chulalongkorn University's faculty of arts.

Khunying Nongyao filed a defamation charge against Ms Morakot in August 2006. What she found unacceptable was a newspaper excerpt in the book which said:

''Nongyao's interviews with the media, that preparations for receiving Pridi's body and construction of a Pridi monument was the government's decision, had made students believe the university administration did not give any importance to the late statesman.''

In an interview with the Bangkok Post, Khunying Nongyao said: ''The information published in the book was totally false. Why would I give an interview that ignored Pridi's contributions to Thammasat University?

''If it was to exercise academic freedom, the book should be in the library, not for public consumption and commercial use. This book has severely damaged my reputation,'' she added.
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