Ahead of Thailand’s general election on 14 May, Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong, Amnesty International’s Thailand Researcher, said:
“The upcoming vote in Thailand offers a rare opportunity for political parties and candidates to publicly commit to the protection and promotion of human rights if elected, including the rights of marginalized groups, civil society and young people.
“In particular, Thailand’s future government must ensure that people in Thailand can freely exercise the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association — and are no longer penalized for speaking out. The government must also drop all charges related to peaceful protest and amend all laws and policies that impede the full enjoyment of these rights.
“After the previous election in 2019, the country saw a widespread outbreak of Covid-19, coupled with the rise of youth-led protests demanding political reforms across the country. Pandemic-related measures have widened the already severe economic disparity, resulting in increased inequality and unwarranted restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“Approximately 7.6% of the 52 million eligible voters in Thailand are first-time voters. A significant number of them are young people who have been involved in protests over the past three years and felt the full force of the state’s crackdown on their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Parties and candidates should listen to the voices of all, including young people, respond to their calls for change, and commit to meeting Thailand’s international human rights obligations if elected.”
In the lead-up to national elections on Sunday, 14 May, Amnesty International Thailand has collaborated with civil society partners in central, northern, north-eastern and southern regions of the country to produce a set of policy recommendations on issues ranging from civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, environmental rights, and LGBTI rights to the rights of migrant workers, refugees, people with disabilities, children, women and Indigenous peoples. The recommendations are designed to urge candidates to formulate policy proposals that seek to improve human rights.
Amnesty International Thailand has also organized public dialogues in the provinces of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Khonkaen, and Pattani to present these recommendations to political parties and encouraged politicians to express their commitments to human rights policies.
Between July 2020 and April 2023, at least 1,902 individuals faced charges in relation to their criticism of the state or involvement in peaceful public assemblies, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. At least 1,469 of them stand accused of violating a ban on public gatherings issued under an emergency decree as part of Thailand’s Covid-19 prevention measures, while a further 167 face charges under the Computer Crimes Act for sharing dissenting content online.
At least 242 individuals are facing serious national security charges for lèse-majesté and another 130 for sedition under Articles 112 and 116 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, while 284 of those criminally charged — at least 18 for lèse-majesté — were younger than 18 years of age at the time of their charges.
Amnesty International is a global human rights movement, independent of any government, political ideology or economic interest. The organization neither supports nor opposes any specific party or candidate in any election. In many countries around the world, Amnesty International routinely calls on political parties and candidates to prioritize the protection of all human rights.