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Thai authorities must halt relentless repression of dissent, stated Amnesty International

Responding to yesterday’s dispersal of peaceful protest in front of the Government House and the police’s arbitrary arrest of at least 99 peaceful protesters, Director of Amnesty International Thailand, Piyanut Kotsan said the Emergency Decree is just a blanket justification to stomp on difference of opinion.

Protesters at the Toward the Sky Village raising the 3-finger salute while lying down, awaiting the incoming arrest on 28 March.

“The mass arrests and charges of peaceful protesters yesterday is yet another systematic crackdown on people’s rights to freedom of expression and assembly. The abuse of law stresses concerns that the Emergency Decree is simply an unlawful blanket justification to stomp on difference of opinion under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Decree must be immediately revoked.

“Numerous arrests, detentions, and charges under the Emergency Decree are purposefully targeted at human rights defenders, activists, and protesters in order to silence dissident. The arbitrary and unlawful arrests reaffirm the police’s disregard of individuals’ rights to a fair trial and due process of law. Amnesty International calls for the immediate release of all protestors and their charges to be dropped.

“The Thai government must respect children’s rights to voice their messages and opinion. Detention of children must be an extreme last resort, and their best interest must come first and foremost.” 

Background

On 28 March 2021, police arrested two groups of at least 99 pro-democracy protestors who peacefully protested for democratic reforms. Protestors arrested include at least 6 children, four as young as 15 years old, two monks, and the elderly. 

At 6 am, approximately 300 riot police raided the site of protestors who had been camping in front of the Government House for two weeks to call for democratic reforms, claiming they had violated the ban on public assemblies under the Emergency Decree. Police gave them three minutes to disperse then arrested 67 activists and protesters.

During the arrest, police confiscated their phones and threatened to escalate crackdown measures if the protesters broadcast the arrest on social media. Different locations were given to who as a place of detention. Two monks were among those arrested and were disrobed.

All protestors were taken to the Border Patrol Police Command, Region 1, in Pathum Thani province, near Bangkok – an unofficial place of detention which runs contrary to the international policing standards. Protestors’s right to have access to their chosen lawyers were limited by venue and distance and their request to have access family during the detention were denied. 

In response, a group of hundreds of protestors organized a ‘flash mob’ in front of the Government House to call for the immediate release of those arrested in the morning. Around 6.30 pm, riot police attempted to disperse the mob and arrested another 32 protesters, including youths and artists. Despite having allegedly committed a crime at the same location, they were reportedly taken to the Police Club in Bangkok, an unofficial place of detention. The police is taking 60 persons together with the second group of 32 individuals to the Dusit District Court requesting for a pre-trial detention.

Six minors were released yesterday which the Juvenile and Family Court granted bails for them. Another 19-year-old boy was also released at the investigation process while being detained at the Border Patrol Command, Region 1. 

Since 2020, more than 500 people, including approximately 29 children, have been arrested and/or charged for peacefully exercising their right to protest. Amnesty International has recorded 12 dispersals of peaceful protests by the police in 2021. 

Police must respect protestors’ right to peacefully gather and express themselves, and facilitate the assemblies to voice their messages. Please see Amnesty International’s document on good practices of police’s management of public assemblies.

Under international policing standards, individuals arrested must be promptly informed of the charges against them and the place of detention, as well as are entitled to the rights to a fair trial – including access to legal counsel of their choice and contact with family or those they trust. They must be detained in officially-recognized places of detention and not subject to torture or ill-treatment. Most importantly, they are presumed innocent until proven otherwise and must be so treated.

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