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Right groups raise concerns over violation of rights against pro-democracy protesters

Yesterday (3 November 2020), representatives of five Thai human rights organisations went to the police headquarters to submit a letter to the police commander on the violation of law and human rights during the legal action taken against pro-democracy protesters. 

Representatives of the five organisations (Picture from the Union for Civil Liberty)

The five organisations are the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), the Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA), Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), and the Communication Resources Center (CRC).

They were led by Ms. Koreeyor Manuchae, HRLA President. 

The Royal Thai Police sent Police Colonel Danu Klamsum, Law Division Superintendent, and Police Colonel Supakorn Pew-orn, Manpower Deputy Commander, as its representatives to receive the letter.

Details of the letter are as follow:

HRLA 34/2563

3 November 2020

Subject: The violation of laws and human rights during the legal actions taken against the pro-democracy students and activists

Dear Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police

Since August 2020, school and university students, members of the public and pro-democracy activists (“activists”) have been organizing pollical activities, disseminating information, conducting public assemblies, making their criticisms and demanding the resignation of the government as well as proposing the reform of various political institutions. In response, the police have taken legal actions, made the arrests and held in custody hundreds of such protesters on various charges including among others the violation of the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergency 2005. The undersigned organizations and networks of human rights lawyers are concerned about the unfolding situation, and would like to offer our recommendations as to the role of the Royal Thai Police concerning its response to the pro-democracy students and activists’ protests as follows;

1. The activists are entitled to and exercising their rights and freedoms, particularly their right to freedom of belief and political opinion, freedom of expression and freedom of public assembly based on the human rights provided for in international laws and the rights and freedoms prescribed in the Constitution. Efforts have been made to prevent and avoid violence. As a public authority, the police are duty bound to protect, uphold, and promote people’s rights and freedoms and should perform their duties as such. But in reality, the police have opted to take legal actions against the activists accusing them on various charges simply to stifle their exercise of the rights and freedoms until the police are viewed as a tool used by the government to harass the activists considered dissidents to therm.

2. Some police officers in certain jurisdictions or in certain units have accused and criminalized the activists simply to prevent the activists who have become alleged offenders from exercising their right to freedom of expression and public assembly rather than subjecting them to normal and fair legal actions. For example;

2.1 Pressing aggravated charges, not consistent with the nature of their offence against them and applying for arrest warrants from the Court, even though the police can simply summon them to hear the charges. By applying for the arrest warrants, the police claim it can prevent the alleged offenders from continuing to participate in a public assembly, even though it is a legitimate right to participate in a public assembly and until now the Court has yet to rule that any of such public assemblies are unlawful. Even though the Court dismisses the remand request and orders the temporary release of the alleged offenders, the police continue to execute arrest warrants from other cases to have them perpetually remanded in custody. Such rearrests are going on repeatedly and become an obstacle and burden for the alleged offenders.

2.2 After the arrests, the alleged offenders are often held in custody at the Border Patrol Police Region 1 in Pathumthani which is not a conventional detention facility used by the police. It becomes an obstacle to their relatives who want to visit them and the attorneys who should have access to the alleged offenders to give them legal assistance. For example, access to lawyer of the alleged offenders has been made an exception and the officers claim they have no authority to authorize such visits even though it is a legitimate right of the alleged offenders and it is incumbent on the officers to facilitate such private meeting between the alleged offenders and their lawyers. The officers instead restrict such access to just one lawyer and one alleged offender and paralegals, or assistant lawyers are barred from joining the visits. This is a restriction imposed on the performance of duties by the lawyers. Meanwhile, the lawyers are also prohibited from bringing inside the detention facility their devices or equipment useful for the performance of their duties including mobile phones. As a result, the lawyers are unable to contact other people or to receive or search for information concerning the performance of their duties. The duration of visit by the lawyers or the families or the alleged offenders’ trusted persons is also subjected to restriction.

2.3 The activists who have become alleged offenders as a result of their activism are being treated as heinous criminals even though such activists have been charged simply for conducting their political activities. They have never obstructed the performance of duties by the officers and have never made any attempt to abscond. In certain cases, the officers are found to have applied excessive force causing injuries among the alleged offenders.

2.4 The law has been enforced discriminately and with double standard. While the pro-democracy activists have to face strict enforcement of the law, their counter-protesters have been treated with leniency by the police even though the latter have adopted illegal approaches including conducing public assemblies and committing physical assault,

3. The police are obliged to work to maintain public order and peace. But some police officers in certain jurisdictions or in certain units in (2) have made the activists and members of the public complain about their double standard, their discrimination and a lack of fairness toward them. The police have been used as political tool by the government, rather functioning as a mechanism to ensure law enforcement and to serve justice. This has not just contributed to the exacerbation of the conflicts, it has made the public lose their trust in the Royal Thai Police and the justice process which shall have grave ramification on the rule of law.

Given the above reasons, we seek your attention and urge that as the Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Police, you should review and proceed to improve and rectify the performance of duties of the police as far as their treatment of the political activists is concerned to ensure compliance with international laws, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, the rule of law and human rights. It shall be an important avenue through which an effective solution to unlock the pollical conflicts can be found.

Please be informed.

Yours sincerely,

Miss Koreeyor Manuchae

President of the Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)

Organizations and networks of human rights lawyers

Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

Union for Civil Liberties (UCL)

Communications Resource Center (CRC).

Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)