Two months after severe emergency restrictions on peaceful protest were lifted in Thailand, Amnesty International said it remains deeply concerned that Thai authorities are continuing to intensify their crackdown on peaceful protesters and those expressing support for them across the country.
Following Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s vow late last month to “enforce all laws” against protesters, officials have initiated numerous new cases against protest leaders, musicians, and activists in relation to the peaceful protests, said the rights group.
An estimated 220 individuals, including children, are facing criminal proceedings stemming from the protests. At least 149 of them are being charged for alleged violations of the restrictions on public assembly under the Emergency Decree, while 53 are facing charges of sedition, said Amnesty.
It adds 37 individuals are now facing charges of lese majeste under Article 112 of the Penal Code which carries up to 15 years of imprisonment, in “an alarming renewal of [the] use of the law”.
Amnesty said it is concerned that authorities are responding to ongoing protests in a way that has led not only to arbitrary detention and jail sentences but also to lengthy time- and resource-consuming criminal proceedings for anyone targeted.
It said: “These have not only a punitive impact on individuals affected, but also a corrosive and chilling effect on the enjoyment of rights for society as a whole.”
The rights group renewed its calls for the government to uphold Thailand’s international human rights obligations with respect to the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
“No one should be harassed or face reprisals because of his or her presence or affiliation with a peaceful assembly,” said Amnesty.
It urged authorities to drop all charges against all peaceful protesters and those expressing support for them.
THE NATION (THAILAND)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK