Amnesty calls for authorities to investigate violence against activists

On Wednesday (3 July), Amnesty International handed an open letter to the Thai authorities, calling for an investigation into the recent attacks on activists and protection of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Piyanut Kotsan (left), Amnesty International Thailand’s Director, submitting the letter to the police representatives (Source: Amnesty International)

The letter was submitted to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, and to the Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police. Deputy Commissioner of the Special Branch Pol Maj Tanai Apichartseni and Deputy Commander of Administrative and Civil Cases, Legal and Litigation Department Pol Col Komsan Sukmak acted as representatives to receive the letter for the Royal Thai Police.

The letter, signed by Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, says that the scale of the attacks against political activists and human rights defenders in Thailand is alarming and that these attacks appear to fit a pattern of systematic violence “timed to coincide with their efforts to draw attention to perceived election irregularities and problems relating to the formation of a new government.”

Since the start of this year, there have already been numerous attacks against activists. Ekkachai Hongkangwan was physically assaulted three times, in January, March, and May, and his car was set on fire twice. Anurak Jeantawanich was attacked twice, in April and May. Sirawith Serithiwat was attacked twice, both times in June. The most recent attack on 28 June left Sirawith seriously injured. He is now still in hospital. Ekkachai also said that he received a Facebook message saying that someone has ordered him dead, and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak has also received a phone call threatening violence.

    Ekkachai, Anurak, and Sirawith are also facing multiple criminal proceedings for their activism, including sedition charges, violations of the Public Assembly Act, and violations of the ban on political gatherings of five or more persons, and charges under the Computer Crimes Act – all of which are an interference with their rights to freedom of expression and association.

    Amnesty International calls on the Thai government to “carry out prompt, effective, impartial and independent investigations” into these attacks and to “safeguard individuals’ ability to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest without fear of harassment, retaliation, or reprisal and to stop using criminal charges to interfere with these rights.” 

    Amnesty International’s press release says that, after receiving the letter, Pol Maj Tanai stated that he believes that all personnel – including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister – are concerned about the attacks and wish to launch a full investigation, since the attacks have gained public attention.