Thailand: More arrests amid ‘drastic’ emergency order banning gatherings

Responding to news that the Thai authorities have ordered a ban on gatherings of five or more people in Bangkok and on sharing information that “could create fear”, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, said: 

“This vague, drastic order will lead to more people unfairly arrested, detained and prosecuted. 

“With further public assemblies expected to happen today, we urge the Thai authorities to engage in constructive dialogue with the protesters. 

“The scale of today’s early morning arrests seems completely unjustified based on yesterday’s events. The assemblies were overwhelmingly peaceful. These moves are clearly designed to stamp out dissent, and sow fear in anyone who sympathizes with the protesters’ views. Peaceful protesters must be released immediately and unconditionally, and all those detained must have access to legal counsel. 

Instead of ruling by decree and mass arrests, the Thai authorities must reverse course.
Ming Yu Hah, Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns

“These arrests and sudden emergency measures, announced in the middle of the night, are just the latest escalation in Thailand’s current onslaught on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. 

“Instead of ruling by decree and mass arrests, the Thai authorities must reverse course. They must comply with their international obligations to respect the rights of anyone who simply wishes to peacefully speak their mind, on social media or in the streets.” 

Background

On 15 October 2020, the Thai authorities ordered an indefinite ban on gatherings of five or more people in Bangkok, the capital, under emergency measures to stop escalating protests. The ban took effect at 4am local time. The order also bans the publication of news or online messages that “could create fear”, affect national security or damage public morale. 

According to news reports, at least 20 people were arrested in the early hours for allegedly violating the state of emergency in place since May 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Amnesty International urged the authorities at the time not to use this state of emergency to violate human rights. 

At least 21 people were arrested earlier this week for attending demonstrations.