Amnesty International, student activist demand release of detained activists

On Monday, 1 November, student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and representatives from Amnesty International Thailand submitted a petition to the prime minister to demand the release of detained activists and an end to the prosecution of protesters.

Activists and Amnesty International representatives at the Government House (Photo by Amnesty International)

The petition was signed by 28,426 people, some who participated in Amnesty International’s urgent action campaign and others who signed an online petition at Change.org. It was received by Sompat Nilapan, advisor to the office of the permanent secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, at the Government House on Monday morning.

According to iLaw, the routes to Government House were blocked on Monday morning, ahead of the activists’ visit. The roads around Government House were blocked with metal fences and shipping containers.  Police officers were also stationed in the area.

The petition calls on Gen Prayut and the Thai government: to stop pressing charges against dissenters; to release arbitrarily detained activists; to respect people’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly; to stop arbitrarily restricting civil rights by imposing  unwarranted bail conditions; to promptly, thoroughly, impartially, and transparently” investigate the excessive and unnecessary use of force by police when detaining individuals and dispersing protests; and to order the police to follow guidelines on the use of force which comply with international standards.

Amnesty International Thailand director Piyanut Kotsan said that Thai activists have been arbitrarily arrested and detained even though they were only exercising their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.   She added that the police have been using excessive and unnecessary force to disperse protesters, firing at them with tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets, and beating protesters.

Many protest leaders, such as Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, are still being detained and denied the right to bail. Amnesty International was informed by the activists’ lawyers that they are being held in “dismal conditions,” raising concerns for their wellbeing.  Several activists have contracted Covid-19 while in prison. At least 1,634 people, including 257 under the age of 18, are facing charges for taking part in the pro-democracy protests.  Piyanut noted that many of these people are at risk of long prison terms or even life imprisonment.

“We demand the Thai government stop the cycle of suppression of dissenters and adhere to its international obligations as well as respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. It should ensure that the police response to the public assemblies, including ‘unpeaceful’ ones, comply with the requirements of necessity and proportionality. The authorities shall refrain from using excessive force which has been the mainstay during public assemblies from 2020 until now. The police must protect the rights of peaceful protesters and prevent any interference or violence abetted by a third party” said Piyanut.

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul (Photo by Amnesty International)

Meanwhile, Panusaya said that she is demanding the right to bail for every political prisoner, adding that they should not have been detained in the first place. She said it was shameful to see the authorities using their powers to lock up anyone they did not want to see on the street, and noted that although Thailand is a so-called democratic country, young people, the future of the country, were being  detained and prosecuted for speaking out about social issues.

Panusaya said that the authorities are still not able to control the spread of Covid-19 in prisons, noting that prisons are a “twilight zone,” with few people speaking out about prison conditions and the public unaware of what happens inside them. She also said that there was no way of knowing what would happen to detained activists and called upon people to demand their release as soon as possible.

“If we are going to fight about ideas, we should do it outside,” Panusaya said, adding that the Prime Minister was the only who benefitted from the forceful dispersion of protests, and the arrest and detention of protesters.  It made her wonder, she said, whether Gen Prayut and his government were acting “in good faith’.

Panusaya herself is facing a number of charges for participating in the pro-democracy protests, including charges under the Emergency Decree, the Computer Crimes Act, and the sedition law, or Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code. She is also facing 9 counts of royal defamation under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code.

Panusaya is attending a bail revocation hearing today (3 November), along with human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, student activist Panupong Jadnok, and singer-turned activist Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan for charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest. If their bail is revoked, they could be detained indefinitely. 

The four activists have been charged under Section 116 and the Ancient Monuments, Antiques, Objects of Art and National Museums Act.  Anon, Panupong, and Panusaya are also facing royal defamation charges under Section 112. The activists were previously detained pending trial in early 2021: Anon between 9 February – 1 June, Panupong between 8 March – 1 June, Panusaya between 8 March – 6 May, and Chaiamorn between 3 March – 11 May. They were granted bail on the condition that they refrain from tampering with evidence or participating in activities damaging the monarchy, report to court regularly, and remain in the country. The public prosecutor submitted a bail revocation request to the court, claiming that they have violated these conditions.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that at least 27 people are currently in detention for participating in pro-democracy protests. Of this number, five people are being detained on royal defamation charges: Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattarasaksa, Anon Nampa, Panupong Jadnok, and Benja Apan. Parit and Jatupat also had their bail revoked on charges relating to the 19 September 2020 protest.

Advertisements

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: service@prachatai.com, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”