Aum Neko is the nickname (pronounced “Um”) of a 20 year-old transgender Arts student majoring in German at Thammasat University named Saran Chuchai. She has been accused of lese majeste in a complaint lodged with police on 16 September 2013.
Aum has been the force behind an anti-uniforms campaign at Thammasat University. Siam Voices has an account of the campaign. That story begins: “The ongoing debate on student uniforms takes a racy turn, as one student’s poster campaign challenges the necessity of uniforms at Thammasat University.” It seems that campaigning against uniforms can lead to lese majeste charges.
Prachatai has interviewed Aum.
Khaosod reported that Aum is the subject of a lese majeste complaint made by “Ponnipa [Pontipa] Supatnukul, 41, the host of a talk show called “Best of Your Life” which is broadcast on a satellite TV channel, filed the complaint to the police in Nonthaburi Province, invoking Article 112…”. Her complaint related to events three months earlier.
Aum was allegedly interviewed for Pontipa’s talk show. The host claims that Aum “shocked everyone” by “talking outside the topic” and “insulting the higher institution…”. She further claims that Aum′s was “so shocking we could not broadcast the show”, however Pontipa “stored footage of the interview.” She handed the video to police.
So why did it take three months for her to shout lese majeste? Pontipa says “she decided to pursue a legal action against Ms. Aum because she was incensed by the student′s continued defamation of the monarchy. Ms. Pontipa also alleged that Ms. Aum is encouraging other students to commit similar crimes.”
The royalist Manager ASTV reports that Pontipa told police that “a lecturer in Thammasat University had informed her that Ms. Aum′s student network in Thammasat is funded by unknown sponsors.” Aum says it is “a free group with no name.”
In the Prachatai interview, Aum is asked:
Prachatai: So where is your Thammasat identity? If not in student uniforms, where is it?
“Aum”: It’s in respect for others’ freedom, adherence to democracy, and no support to any form of dictatorship, in particular coups d’état.
The main identity of Thammasat is the 24 June 1932 revolution. Then we had the first constitution on 27 June 1932. Next we had the establishment of Thammasat on 27 June 1934. Therefore, our stance should be preserving the constitution. But these days as it turns out the [university] management is preserving authoritarian power, even making us wear student uniforms; they are preserving the sacredness and power instead of rights and freedom according to the philosophy of the university.
Perhaps this is what is so threatening to the powers that be. The wearing of uniforms is a demand made to enforce and maintain the social order, its hierarchy and the authority of the royalist regime. Those who benefit from this system see a threat to uniforms as another challenge to their power, where the keystone is the monarchy.
Police accepted the lese majeste case and a warrant was issued for Aum under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code in mid-March 2014.
Police say they have summoned Aum to hear the charge on 24 March after they “studied evidence” and “to proceed with the prosecution.”
Aum reportedly “said she is willing to report to the police on 24 March, but she is still waiting for the police to choose a venue for the meeting.”
She also faces “an exhaustive investigation conducted by Thammasat University administration” which is seeking to expel her for provocative actions that the conservative and royalist administration finds confronting and challenging.
Following the May 2014 coup, Aum fled Thailand to France. In November 2014 and after, she has participated in anti-coup protests in Paris and elsewhere in Europe. In late June 2015, it was reported that France had granted Aum political refugee status.
Media accounts of Aum’s case:
Prachatai, 27 June 2015: “France grants refugee status to Thai political exiles”
Prachatai, 22 May 2015: “Life for a Thai in exile: Aum Neko in France”
Bangkok Post, 23 March 2014: “Activists, relatives rally for lese majeste prisoners“
Khaosod, 20 March 2014: “Student Summoned By Police Over Lese Majeste”
Bangkok Post, 17 September 2013: “Aum Neko faces lese majeste”
Khaosod, 16 September 2013: “Lese Majeste Complaint Against Reformist Student“