KHON KAEN — The immigration bureau on Monday deferred the decision to extend the work permit and visa of an American academic who wrote about the country’s draconian lese majeste law.
Scholar David Streckfuss faced expulsion from the kingdom after Khon Kaen University suddenly terminated his employment contract, resulting in his visa being revoked. He went to the local immigration office Monday to plead for another extension. The bureau said the decision was delayed to May 3 because they needed more time to revise his documents.
“I confirm that the Khon Kaen Immigration Office is pursuing the case accordingly,” Lt. Col. Nattapong Kulsak, inspector of Khon Kaen immigration, said. “This has nothing to do with politics and David is not a prohibited person under the immigration act. Therefore, there should be no problem with his visa application process.”
Streckfuss said he will not flee the country and is trying to secure a new work permit and visa under his new employer, The Isaan Record online news site. After filing his application last month, Streckfuss said police officers repeatedly visited his office and asked local people about his whereabouts.
“It seems irregular as if there is something going on,” he said.
The longtime expat worked as the director of the exchange student program at Khon Kaen University for the past 27 years before he was given a one-month notice of termination in February for “not being able to do assigned work.” He believed the decision was politically charged, an allegation denied by his former employer.
“No police or any other state officials have met with the rector or the dean,” Khon Kaen University rector Charnchai Pangthongviriyakul said Saturday. “The faculty saw that there has been no progress in his work, so it decided to notify him of contract termination.”
Although Streckfuss admitted that there was no exchange of students due to the pandemic, he told Khaosod English in an interview Friday that police officers did visit the rector and the dean of the Faculty of Public Health he worked with in February.
“I heard from someone who is close to the matter that some police visited the rector and the dean on Feb. 18,” Streckfuss said. “They said I was interfering in politics, so the administration made the choice to end the contract. That was the reason, but they didn’t put it in writing.”
In 2010, he published “Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lese-Majeste,” which explores how the royal defamation law shaped Thai society. Streckfuss said he does not believe it is the book that is causing him problems, but it is the accusations of him being a foreign agent made by former leader of the Yellowshirt movement Sondhi Limthongkul that put him under spotlight.
“There’s no way to prove that I’m not a unicorn either,” Streckfuss said. “No, I’m not. I came from University of Wisconsin–Madison, where there were often protests against the CIA.”
Apart from the book, he also discussed Article 112 at a panel held by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in March alongside heavyweight panelists such as the outspoken Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome and the leader of the pro-establishment Thai Phakdee group Warong Dechgitvigom.