Run Against Dictatorship blocked in three provinces

Authorities have been attempting to block spin-off Run Against Dictatorship events in at least three provinces, while the main Bangkok event has been forced to move from Thammasat University to Wachirabenchathat (Rot Fai) Park.

Yesterday (7 January), Khaosod reported that Acting Sub-Lt. Prasert Nguansuwan, President of the Phrae Democracy Lovers Network, and other organizers of the event met with the Superintendent of the Muang Phrae Police Station on Monday morning (6 January) to request permission to organize the Phrae Run Against Dictatorship event. The Superintendent said that he would check the documents before granting permission, but has yet to inform the organizers of his decision.

Meanwhile, iLaw said that the organizers of the Phrae Run Against Dictatorship have faced intimidation from the authorities. Prasert told iLaw he has been visited by plainclothes police officers on Saturday (4 January), and that they tried to convince him to cancel the event, claiming that it might violate the Public Assembly Act.

On Sunday (5 January), Prasert said that the police asked to see him again, so he went to meet three officers at a coffee shop. The officers, who told Prasert they are from the Phrae public security police, asked Prasert to cancel the event, claiming that it could affect national security. They also told Prasert that the authorities will not grant him permission to organize the event if he were to file a request, telling him that the event could be violating the Public Assembly Act and other legislation. However, Prasert insisted that he will not cancel the event.

Prasert also claimed that he has been followed by plainclothes officers while traveling around, and told iLaw that he was later told by a neighbour after he went to the Muang Phrae Police Station on Monday (6 January) that a police officer came to photograph his house. In addition, he said that plainclothes officers visited the Future Forward Party’s Phrae headquarters to meet the other organizers yesterday afternoon (7 January) to convince them to cancel the event and were asking whether the party is involved with the event.

Meanwhile, on Monday (6 January), Thai Lawyers For Human Rights (TLHR) reported that three students from the University of Phayao who were organizing a Run Against Dictatorship event in Phayao were summoned by the police to provide more information about the event, after the three students were questioned for over 5 hours on Sunday (5 January).

The superintendent of the Muang Phayao Police Station then sent the students a letter refusing them permission to organize the event on the grounds that the Muang Phayao Municipality Office has not granted them permission to use the space and that they have not been permitted by the traffic officer to use the road.

The letter also stated that if they continue to organize the event without filing a request for permission to hold a public assembly, they may be violating the Public Assembly Act.

TLHR also reported that police officers have been calling the students repeatedly over a period of three days to summon them in for questioning, even visiting their parents’ homes at night.

One of the students said that police officers went to his family’s home in Chiang Rai, and after learning that his mother has gone to the temple, they followed her there in order to question her whether her son is involved with the Run Against Dictatorship event in Phayao and whether she allowed him to get involved. They also questioned her about his personality and whether he has previously been involved in political activities. 

The three students said they will still be organizing an event, but possibly in a different format.

In Ubon Ratchathani, Matichon reported that the Acting Superintendent of the Muang Ubon Ratchanani Police Station withdrew his permission for a Run Against Dictatorship event, after a request to hold a public assembly was filed on 6 January.

The Superintendent claimed that the permission was previously granted because he thought it was a running event involving collecting trash along the street, but after the authorities reviewed the request, they withdrew the permission because the event has a political intention and may involve an anti-government demonstration.

Khaosod also reported that the police told the organizers that the event violates other people’s rights and so is not allowed.

Organizers of similar events were also visited by police officers. Pongsathon Tancharoen, a student at Mahasarakham University, told iLaw that police officers from the Muang Maha Sarakham Police Station visited him at his home in Kalasin during the New Year holiday to question him about the event.

Not only that, Pongsathon also received a phone call from one of the lecturers at Maha Sarakham University, telling him that national security authorities had contacted the University, and that the University’s administrators felt it was not appropriate for the event to be held on campus.

After it became clear that the University would not allow them to organize the event on campus, the organizers announced that they will be moving the venue inside the city. Pongsathon then received a phone call from one of the officers who visited him, claiming that his “boss” wants to know what Pongsathon’s parents do for a living, which he felt was an attempt at intimidation.

Walailak University also issued a statement on Tuesday (7 January) that it is not affiliated with the organizers of the Run Against Dictatorship event in Nakhon Si Thammarat, and that it does not permit the event to use campus space. Its statement said that while it supports academic freedom of thought, it does not support political activism, and does not allow such activity to be held on campus.

Currently there are Run Against Dictatorship and similar events organized in at least 14 provinces and at least 6 places overseas, all of which are scheduled to take place on 12 January. The organizing committee of the main Run Against Dictatorship in Bangkok, which has been forced yet again to move to Wachirabenchatat Park after Thammasat University did not allow them to use their grounds, said that they are not involved with the events organized in other places, but organizers of other events may contact them for shirts and medals.