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To the editor:
Ilya Garger’s article on the Thai Studies project ("Troubles with Thai Studies") could easily mislead readers; I would therefore like to offer a few words of clarification. Precisely because I share Mr. Garger’s admirable respect for the importance of free speech and untrammeled academic freedom (as he acknowledges), I do not think we have the right to speculate about how some individuals might conceivably make political use of their support for our project, especially given that those named in the article have in fact been scrupulous about not exerting any pressure on our academic planning. Such pressure, no matter from what source, would in any case be counter-productive.
Furthermore, those particular individuals have helped us ensure that the roster of actual donors represents a far wider political spectrum than Mr. Garger’s article suggests. We are already expecting several speakers and resident scholars, representing a full range of viewpoints, for the new academic year and beyond. I am confident that knowledgeable readers will acknowledge the intellectual fairness and ongoing commitment to supporting academic freedom in Thailand that these invitations represent, and will agree that the creation of a Thai Studies entity at Harvard will reinforce the crucial goal of ensuring fully independent, inclusive, open, and honestly critical discussion.
Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology
Coordinator for Thai Studies, Asia Center
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