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The crackdown on public assemblies and arrests of protesters attests to the state’s intention to create a chilling climate of fear, says AI

The use of force to crack down on protests and arrests of protesters show that the state wants to suppress dissenters and create a climate of fears, says Amnesty International, who calls for the repeal of the Emergency Decree. 

Containers blocking Vibhavadi Road during the protest on 1 August

The use of force to crack down on the public assembly around the Veterans General Hospital in Bangkok’s Din Daeng District on 1 August has caused injuries among the protesters and people living nearby. At least, ten protesters were held in custody during and after the demonstration. And today (2 August), 33 more arrests were carried out among protesters in front of the Royal Thai Police Sports Club including one 17-year-old child. 

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand, reveals that the violent crackdown with the use of force by the authorities is aimed at instigating clashes and arresting the protesters. Such action constitutes a systematic suppression of dissenting groups or individual dissenters who have come out to exercise their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. The abuse of law reinforces our concern about the use of the Emergency Decree and similar laws as well as Covid-19 restrictions to blanketly justify the abuse of law and human rights. The Emergency Decree should, therefore, be repealed.  

“That the repression of the demonstrations has caused injuries among the protesters and people living nearby attests to gross negligence among the officers when performing their duties. The Emergency Decree and similar laws have been weaponized by the authorities to restrict the rights of dissenters who simply want to take to the street to demand their rights. 

The arrests made in the past two days have shown how the state vehemently wants to create a climate of fear among the protesters and other dissenters at large. The demand of human rights and equality as well as access to effective vaccination for all should be heeded to by the government. They should consider the demands, suggestions, the complaints and the suffering of the people and use such information to further improve their administration, not to take legal action against them simply to create fear and silence the society.”

Background

On 1 and 2 August 2021, at least 43 protesters were arrested including one 17-year-old child. The “Car Mob” on 1 August was met with crackdown by the officials even after the demonstration was ended. The officials fired tear gas, welded batons, fired water cannon and rubber bullets continuously for over three hours causing injuries among some protesters. 

The Car Mob demonstration as people cruised in cars and on motorcycles took place on 1 August 2021 downtown of Bangkok starting from around the Don Mueang International Airport. Such car rally also took place simultaneously in various other spots throughout Bangkok and the provinces, altogether 48 places in 37 provinces. They key demands are for General Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign as the Prime Minister and the rights to transparent and fair access to vaccination. 

The use of force to crack down on the demonstrations

The car rally took place from 13.00 and lasted until 16.40. After the organizers declared the end of the activity, around 17.30, online medias reported an incidence around the Veterans General Hospital, the 1st Infantry Regiment and on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road near the Din Daeng Intersection. Tear gas and rubber bullets were fired as well as water cannon with the use of forces to cordon off the crowd. The officials fired tear gas 3-4 times without prior warning and before the use of weapons or equipment to disperse the crowd. As the situation was yet quelled, some demonstrators also threw objects against the crowd control forces and moved closer toward the forces. The officials retaliated by firing tear gas and water cannon as well as rubber bullet at the protesters. Around 20.30, an announcement was made to urge all the remaining protesters to vacate the area since the curfew time was about to start. At 20.45, the rows of crowd control forces have immediately charged toward the protesters. According to Voice TV’s report, rubber bullets were then fired at close range and in one incidence, the official trained his gun in close range on the head of one protester while he was riding away from the protest site. Rubber bullets were also fired at close range in the back of some other demonstrators. Even around 22.00, the forces were still spotted in the area. 

The use of force to disperse the crowd was not conducted proportionally, or necessarily or systematically. Peaceful protesters were not isolated, and no communication was made to minimize physical violence. According to reports, the officials fired tear gas and rubber bullets continuously for over three hours. In addition, the officials fired rubber bullets at close range aiming clearly at the upper part of body which may cause injuries and be harmful to vital organs.

The arrest of the protesters 

At 12.00, core members of the Nonthaburi Network who were about to join the car rally were put under arrest. According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), as the protesters were driving past the entrance of the Government Complex in Bangkok, they were stopped by the police who identified themselves and started to arrest seven individuals. 

They were then taken to the Rattanathibet Police Station, and then on to the Border Patrol Police Region 1in Pathumthani Province. The seven suspects were then released on their own recognizance without having been interviewed. They were pressed with three charges including; 

  • Violation of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in the State of Emergency BE 2548;
  • An offence against the Penal Code’s Section 370, essentially “Whoever, creates a noise,  causes a noise or disturbance without a  reasonable  cause  so  as to frighten  or  trouble  the  public, shall  be  punished  with  fined  not  exceeding  one  thousand Baht;
  • An offence against the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act for unauthorized use of sound equipment.

After the demonstration ended, around 23.40, TLHR also reported that three individuals who took charge over the sound system vehicle were held in custody at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau within the Royal Thai Police Sports Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road. They were pressed with three charges including; 

  • An offence against the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in the State of Emergency BE 2548;
  • An offence against the Penal Code’s Section 385, obstructing traffic route;
  • An offence against the Land Traffic Act BE 2522;
  • An offence against the Controlling Public Advertisement by Sound Amplifier Act for unauthorized use of sound equipment.

On 2 August 2021, inquiry officials of the Samranrat Police Station have applied to the Court for their remand in custody via video conference from the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, although at 10.40, the Dusit Kwaeng Court has granted them bail without surety by having them take an oath that they will appear during the hearing. Meanwhile, members of the Thalu Fah group have come to protest at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau since 10.00 to demand the release of the three suspects. It has led to 33 more arrests of the Thalu Fah members. 31 of them were taken to the Border Patrol Police Region 1 and two to the Sutthisan Police Station for custody. 

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