American academic who wrote about Thailand’s lèse majesté law granted visa
David Streckfuss, an American academic who has been involved in pro-democracy activities and written articles about the kingdom’s lèse majesté law, was granted a work visa on Monday (May 3).
The visa issuance was announced amid growing concerns that Streckfuss would be another victim of the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.
In March, his academic visa was abruptly revoked, after Khon Kaen University decided to terminate his contract. Streckfuss’ wife, Hathairat Phaholtap, claimed that Thai authorities had pressured the university to do so, reasoning that his work in Thailand was too political, a claim both the Immigration Police and the University have denied.
Streckfuss has lived and worked in Khon Kaen, Thailand for over 30 years.
Immigration Division 4 Superintendent Kridsada Kanjanaarlongkon told ThaiPBS World on Wednesday (May 5) that Streckfuss has already been granted a visa and he can stay in Thailand for one year from April 1st.
Streckfuss’ visa conditions are the same as everyone else staying on the same type of visa, the immigration authority said. “He was not on a “watch list” or whatever, but if he breaks the law, there will be consequences,” he added.
Kridsada admitted having visited Streckfuss’ office during the application process. The visit was a common procedure in examining whether the company truly exists, in order to grant a business visa, he explained.
Streckfuss told ThaiPBS World that there were no problems with the immigration police. Any interference in the process, he said, came from other government bodies.
In all his years in Thailand, Streckfuss said his work has been involved in politics. He has written articles about the lèse majesté law and has worked with communities in the Northeast, as part of his academic work, defending their rights. He said that this could be a reason why he is being watched.
“Sometimes, I get phone calls from the Internal Security Operations Command. I am in touch with one of their guys. He would call and say he saw me here or there, and asked what I was doing,” the academic said.
Nonetheless, as he has been granted a work visa, Streckfuss said, “I’m happy that [the application process] worked out and I can continue to stay in Thailand.”
By Chalanlak Chanwanpen