BANGKOK — The House Committee on law, justice, and human rights on Wednesday said the police intelligence unit has promised to drop the probe into Muslim students at their campuses.
Future Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome, who serves as the committee’s spokesman, said the Special Branch Police will ignore a police letter requesting universities to count and monitor their Muslim students which police described as “routine intel gathering” operation.
The assurance came after the committee invited Special Branch division commander Ronnachai Chindamuk to explain their actions after the letter was issued in early September. The panel was also attended by representatives from the Muslim Students Federation of Thailand, also known as Mustfeth.
“When the committee asked why the bureau are particularly interested in Muslim students, representatives from the Special Branch Police said they could not disclose as it is a matter of national security,” Rangsiman said. “However, they promised that the bureau has already abandoned the order.”
He added, “We will keep our eyes on the bureau to see whether it keeps its word.”
The police letter, which was sent to an unnamed university, came to light when former National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit posted the partially censored letter to her Facebook on Sept. 16 and demanded an explanation for it.
The letter requested the university to disclose the number of Muslim students and identify any Muslim groups at the campus.
Police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen confirmed the document as authentic and insisted it was a part of routine intelligence gathering.
But civil rights activists have criticized the practice as a violation of Section 27 of the 2017 Constitution, which guarantees equal rights and religious freedom to all.
Mustfeth submitted a petition signed by Muslim student associations from 60 universities in Thailand asking the committee to probe into the letter on Sept. 18.
The Sheikhul Islam Office, the national Islamic authority, also handed a letter to the police chief Chakthip Chaijinda on Sept. 24. and urged him to cease the surveillance.
“The office has acknowledged with grave concern this practice, which can be considered discrimination against Muslim citizens in Thailand,” reads the statement by the Sheikhul Islam Office.