Academic freedom

21 05 2020

We are used to seeing rankings. A relatively new one that PPT recently came across, thanks to a post at New Mandala, that led us here, and then to a ranking on academic freedom. On that last post, we noted Thailand’s abysmal performance.

PPT decided to get to work on the data made available by the efforts of researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the V-Dem Institute, the Scholars at Risk Network, and the Global Public Policy Institute. The full report can be downloaded as a PDF. Some might quibble about the ranking and what goes into it, but it is worth thinking about why Thailand does so badly. The result is the graph below:

We were selective, including Thailand’s ASEAN partners, some other countries in the Asian region and Germany as an example of a highly-ranked country and Taiwan and South Korea as highly-ranked countries in the region.

It is obvious that Thailand does very badly indeed, ranking well below all of its ASEAN partners except Laos (we couldn’t locate a score for Cambodia). Thailand even ranks below Vietnam, usually considered a pretty authoritarian state, but where public policy on education is taken quite a lot more seriously than in Thailand. Thailand even ranks behind Saudi Arabia, a despotic monarchy.

Thailand’s low score is no surprise. Thailand’s academics have long suffered state repression, censorship and academics have been prone to self-censorship. And, not a few academics have considered themselves servants of the rich and powerful and promoters of conservative royalism. Most of this latter type are seldom true academics, conducting fearless research and publishing high-quality papers. Rather, they crave lucrative advisory posts and proximity to power. Think of the execrable Panitan Wattanayagorn who grasps his academic position in a claw-like grip while being the servant of murderous generals.


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