When the trial of Worachet Pakeerat, a prominent Thai law professor, opens in late November in Bangkok, he will become one of the first Thai civilians to be court-martialed in decades. His crime? Failing to report to the military junta that seized power in this year's May 22 coup. Although his wife had told authorities he was abroad when he was summoned and would report to them on his return, he was nevertheless arrested on arrival in Bangkok on June 18, charged with failing to report on time and quickly handed over to the military courts. Worachet is currently on bail.
Only one other person has been given similar treatment for failing to answer a military summons: former Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, one of the most widely respected members of ex-Premier Yingluck Shinawatra's ill-fated cabinet. But Worachet is not a politician, nor is he a leader of the red shirt movement that supports Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and he has not sought to mobilize opposition to the junta. Worachet, who received a royal scholarship for his graduate studies in Germany, is widely regarded -- even by those who disagree with him on many issues -- as among the brightest academics in the country. Ironically, the 45-year-old was promoted to full professor at Thammasat University, one of Thailand's leading educational institutions, immediately after being charged; professorial titles in Thailand are formally awarded by the king himself.