Authorities intimidate HIV activists for supporting civil rights march

The police and military have created the climate of fear among HIV activists, making them decide to stop giving assistance to the HIV-positive in provincial hospitals. This intimidation came after activists signed a petition in support of the civil rights march. 
 
On 25 January 2018, the police and soldiers visited members of the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS in Sisaket and Surin provinces. The intimidation occurred after the network signed a statement by FTA Watch, urging the junta to stop prosecuting the organisers of the civil rights march “We Walk, A Walk for Friendship”. 
 
Nimit Tian-udom, Director of the Aids Access Foundation, told Prachatai that in the morning, police officers and soldiers visited hospitals in the provinces and asked the hospitals’ directors to summon the network members for interrogation.
 
Nimit added that provincial officers from Ministry of Social Development and Human Security also summoned the network’s local leaders to question their reason for signing the petition. “Those who were summoned had no involvement with the march. They’re just members of the group which signed the statement,” stated Nimit.
 
To avoid further problems with the authorities, some HIV groups decided to halt their daily activities, such as visiting the homes of people with HIV and giving advice to those who came to the hospitals, Nimit pointed out.
 
The statement by FTA Watch, signed by 142 civil society organisations, expresses solidarity with the civil rights march and urged the junta to immediately cease the prosecution of eight organisers of the rally.
 
The We Walk march from Bangkok to Khon Kaen kicked off at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on 20 January with four main issues: the right to universal health care, the rights of farmers, community and environmental rights, and the Constitution. 
 
Since the beginning, the rally has faced several interruptions by the police and military. On the first day, the authorities blocked the activists from exiting Thammasat University, claiming the march violated the junta’s ban on public gatherings of five people or more. The protesters then divided into groups of four people and marched from the university group by group.
 
A day after, Ayutthaya police officers searched their supply trucks and briefly detained four protesters for interrogation. The protesters had to start the march earlier than planned after the authorities pressured an Ayutthaya temple which sheltered them. The organisers of the civil rights march are also facing prosecution for violating the junta’s ban on public assembly.
 
 
The march on the fifth day (Photo from People Go Network)