After nearly 4 decades, American academic and activist faces expulsion

A file photo of David Streckfuss. Photo: David Streckfuss / Facebook
A file photo of David Streckfuss. Photo: David Streckfuss / Facebook

An American scholar and longtime resident who has written about Thailand’s draconian lese majeste law said today he faces expulsion after 35 years in the kingdom.

Khon Kaen-based academic David Streckfuss, who has written a book on the royal insult law and heads news outlet The Isaan Record, said he has lost his work permit and visa after being fired suddenly by Khon Kaen University for “not being able to do assigned work.”

Streckfuss was unavailable to talk Friday. Hathairat Phaholtap, editor of The Isaan Record, told Coconuts Bangkok via phone that he was given one-month notice of termination by the school in February, after which immigration police notified him that he would need to leave the country. He obtained a one-month extension, which ends Sunday.

Hathairat said she and David have sought legal help and would go Monday to the local immigration office to plead for another extension.

Streckfuss headed the university’s 30-year-old exchange student program; his current contract was valid through August. No one answered either of two phone numbers Khon Kaen University listed on Streckfuss’ notice of termination.

A resident for over 35 years, Streckfuss has helped manage The Isaan Record since 2013. In 2010, he published Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lese-Majeste. Last month, he discussed the lese majeste law at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand alongside panelists such as pro-democracy activist-turned-MP Rangsiman Rome and ultra-royalist Warong Dechgitvigom.

Hathairat, who is Streckfuss’ partner, believes the university fired him under pressure from the police. She said she was told by an unnamed police officer that the order came from “higher up.”

“The university President and Dean of the Faculty of Public Health reportedly said the university was pressured by the police after Streckfuss helped organized an event for Isaan writers, artists, academics, LGBT+, and activists in February,” she wrote online today. “Police reportedly said Streckfuss has been ‘too political’ although he has never participated in any political demonstration.”

Read more Coconuts Bangkok stories here.

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