Police deny students’ request to hold Tiananmen Square commemoration

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal went to Huaikwang Police Station on 2 June to receive a police order forbidding him and other students from organizing a commemoration event on the 31st anniversary of the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Netiwit after receiving the police order forbidding the event (Source: Netiwit Ntw)

Netiwit said that the police denied his request under Article 9 of the Emergency Decree, which carries a prison sentence of up to 2 years or a fine of 20,000 baht or both for any violation.  

Netiwit submitted a request to hold the event to Huaikwang police stating that the event, to be held in front of the Chinese Embassy, would involve around 10 participants holding signs saying “Thailand is a sovereign nation, not a part of China” and “Protect the Mekong River” along with the Tibetan, Uyghur, and Hong Kong flags.

The request also detailed the event’s social distancing measures, stating that participants will be required to wear face masks and stand 1 - 2 metres apart, and requesting that the authorities assist them in coordinating with other agencies responsible for disease control if they think it is necessary.

Since the Thai government declared a state of emergency on 3 April 2020 in order to control the spread of Covid-19, the authorities have used the Decree to restrict freedom of expression. On 28 April, Sunthorn Duangnarong, a human right defender from the Chaiyaphum-based Rak Bamnet Narong Conservation Group, was arrested and taken to the Hua Thale Police Station, where she was told that she may later be charged under the Public Assembly Act and the Emergency Decree after she appeared in a video alongside 20 other community members reading out a statement calling on the government and private mining companies to put on hold any mining-related activities for as long as the Covid-19 restrictions are in place.

Political activist Anurak Jeantawanich was also arrested twice after participating in public assemblies. On 13 May, he was arrested and taken to Lumpini Police Station after a commemoration event on the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, with the police claiming that he violated the Emergency Decree by organizing the gathering, and also because many of the participants were not maintaining a safe distance from each other and were not wearing face masks.

Anurak was arrested again alongside former MP Dr Tossaporn Serirak on 22 May, after they organized an event in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) to mark the 6th anniversary of the May 2014 military coup. They were taken to Pathumwan Police Station and charged with violating the Emergency Decree by organizing a public gathering that risked spreading infection.

The police in Songkhla also denied a request from a beach conservation network to hold an anti-seawall protest on Muang Ngam Beach on 23 May, claiming that the protest would violate the Emergency Decree.