UN human rights experts* urged today (22 October) the Thai government to guarantee the fundamental rights of peaceful assembly and free speech and called for an end to a crackdown on peaceful protests.
Protesters setting up a barrier during the protest at Victory Monument on 18 October
“The imposition of a state of emergency is the latest in a series of draconian measures aimed at stifling peaceful demonstrations and criminalizing dissenting voices,” the experts said.
“We urge the Thai government to allow students, human rights defenders and others to protest in a peaceful manner. The Thai people should be allowed to freely speak their mind and share their political views, both online and offline, without prosecution.”
Thousands of people have joined pro-democracy protests in Bangkok, calling for government and monarchy reforms. Since 13 October 2020, at least 80 individuals have been arrested, of whom 27 remain in detention. Some have been charged under Thailand’s Criminal Code on counts of sedition and holding an “illegal assembly”. Some have also been charged under the Computer Crimes Act for using their social media accounts to call the public to participate in the rallies. Two face lifetime jail sentences for allegedly using violence against the monarchy.
“We are seriously concerned that those taking part in peaceful protests have been charged under laws, about which we raised concerns in the past.”
The experts called on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release any individual detained for the sole exercise of her fundamental freedoms.
On 15 October “severe emergency measures” were imposed in Bangkok province, prohibiting gatherings of more than four people. Police have subsequently applied force, including the use of water cannon, to disperse protesters who were demonstrating peacefully.
“The security authorities are using unnecessary force against the peaceful protesters,” the experts said. “Such violence only risks escalating the situation. Instead of trying to silence peaceful demonstrators, we urge the Thai government to promptly seek an open and genuine dialogue with them.”
*The experts: Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights of peaceful assembly and association, Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression, Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.