Thai people attend an anti-government protest on August 10, 2020 at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand. Approximately 3,000 anti-government protesters attended the rally that is the latest in a string of daily protests, started by students in late July. Student organizations have been calling for the dissolution of Thailand's military backed government led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha. (Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

Thailand: More peaceful activists arrested and charged amidst pro-democracy protests

Responding to the arrests of eight more activists today, Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, said:

“Authorities are weaponizing the law to silence people who peacefully criticize the government. These charges are clearly designed to intimidate people who are taking to the streets in ever-larger numbers.

“The authorities must drop these bogus charges against peaceful protestors. Freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are human rights, even if the government disagrees with the criticisms being levelled at them.

“It’s high time the authorities constructively engage with these mass mobilizations, instead of bandying threats and hoping these thousands of people will be scared away from future rallies.”

Background

On Wednesday 19 August, police at Samranrat police station arrested activists Baramee Chairat (coordinator of the Assembly of the Poor), Suwanna “Looktan” Tanlek (member of the 24 June Democracy Movement), and Korakot Sangyenpan (member of the Democracy Restoration Group).

This morning, eight more activists were arrested: Dechathorn “Hockey” Bumrungmuang (member of rap group Rap Against Dictatorship), Todsapon Sinsomboon (student member of the Free Youth Movement), Thanee Sasom and Nattawut Somboonsap (protestors) and Thanayuth “Book” na Ayutthaya (member of rap group Eleven Finger). All have been released on bail with conditions not to carry out the same alleged acts.

Previously, on Friday 14 August, Parit Chiwarak, member of the Student Union of Thailand was also arrested on the same allegations, as were lawyer Arnon Nampa and student activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok on Friday 7 August. The three were later released on bail.

They each face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

The individuals arrested today were all charged in relation to their alleged participation in Free Youth’s pro-democracy protest on 18 July 2020, which listed three demands from the government: parliament dissolution, a new constitution, and an end to harassment against individuals. Another four protestors have an arrest warrant against them from the same incident but have yet been taken into custody, while 16 other individuals are facing the same allegations without an arrest warrant and are due to report themselves to the police.

Separately, lawyer Arnon Nampa was arrested again by police from Chanasongkram police station last night for a Harry Potter-themed rally held on 3 August 2020. The police later brought Arnon to the Criminal Court to file for pre-trial detention. Arnon was later granted bail with conditions not to carry out the same alleged acts. Arnon was charged with sedition under Article 116 of the Penal Code, offences under the repressive Public Assembly Act, the Sound Amplifier Act, and the vague and broadly-worded Computer Crime Act.

Since the imposition of the Emergency Decree on 26 March 2020, officials have increasingly detained and initiated criminal complaints against individuals who engaged in peaceful protests and activities. Demonstrators have also reported being subject to intensifying harassment and intimidation by police officers in recent months solely for their involvement in peaceful demonstrations.