Cracking the media

20 09 2021

Thailand’s regime is seeking to limit reporting on the actions of its police against demonstrators. Recent actions against the media are reported here, here, here, here, and here.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand has issued a statement, reproduced in full:

FCCT STATEMENT ON THAI POLICE THREAT TO ARREST JOURNALISTS COVERING PROTESTS

The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand wishes to express its deep concern over a threat by the Royal Thai Police to arrest journalists caught covering protests after the 9pm curfew.

The police have issued a list of preconditions for journalists to obtain permission to report on the protests, which some will be unable to meet. The police want journalists to provide them with a letter requesting coverage after the curfew, stamped by the Metropolitan Police, a copy of a PRD press card, and a letter of assignment from their news agency asking for post-curfew reporting.

This is an onerous set of requirements for what should be routine media work. Some legitimate journalists do not have PRD-issued press cards, and some freelancers cannot get all these documents. It is unacceptable that journalists should face the threat of arrest and prosecution while doing their jobs, simply because they cannot meet all these bureaucratic conditions.

The FCCT urges the police to review their rules for post-curfew reporting, and to recognise that there are genuine journalists reporting on the streets who may not be able to get all the documents they are asking for, and who should not be arrested face any criminal charges.

17 September 2021





Cracking down III

19 09 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has recently reported statistics on people arrested or detained, accused of involvement in protest activities during the first three weeks of August:

It is found that from 1 to 25 August 2021, at least 260 persons have been arrested. This number includes at least 13 children younger than 15 years old, 57 youths within the age range from 15 to 18 years old, and 190 adults. However, it excludes the key protest leaders and activists who reported to the authorities per their arrest warrants.

Arresting and detaining 57 kids under 18 may seem excessive, but the point of these operations is to frighten and repress.

So it is that the cops harass:

Clipped from The Nation

All the arrested persons had been detained and interrogated in different places, depending on the authorities’ order each day. The documented detention venues included the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Headquarters (BPP 1) in Pathum Thani Province, the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) inside the Royal Thai Police Club, and other police stations across Bangkok. The majority of detention was unlawful because the police officers often did not bring the arrested persons to a police station in the locality of where they were arrested or the station in charge of processing the arrested persons’ charges in line with the Criminal Procedure Code.

Unlawful arrest and other unlawful activity seems to define police operations.

Read more on these arrests here.

Meanwhile, the regime’s thuggish police are running dragnets across the protest movement. Prachatai reports that on 17 September, “police officers raided the house of members of the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), confiscating mobile phones and computers and arresting one person.” According to TLHR, the arrest warrant did not say why it was issued.

That’s probably unlawful as well, but these thugs have become the law; whatever they do seems okay.

According to Thai PBS, Deputy Police Spokesman Pol Col Krisana Pattanacharoen stated that the cops “have 20 targets of investigation, including the UFTD leaders, who are suspected of committing illegal acts related to national security.” That’s usually code for lese majeste and/or sedition.

Pol Col Krisana claimed “[s]imilar raids and searches have been conducted outside Bangkok and at least five suspects have already been arrested…”.

Clipped from Prachatai

The person arrested was university student Niraphorn Onkhao, a third-year liberal arts student at Thammasat University, on charges of sedition and computer crimes. TLHR say the arrest warrant did not say why it was issued and contained the wrong citizen ID number. Niraphorn also protested during the arrest that she had never received a summons.

Niraphorn denied all charges and refused to sign the arrest record and was later released on bail of 25,000 baht.

TLHR reported that the complaint leading to Niraphorn’s arrest was filed “by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims, an online royalist group whose members have filed numerous lèse majesté charges against many netizens and activists…”. Ultra-royalist Nopadol claimed the student was “involved with running the UFTD’s Facebook page, which contain messages calling for people to join protests, which said were not peaceful protests and at risk of spreading Covid-19.”

Showing how close the links are between regime cops and ultra-royalists, police claimed they “found that the Facebook page contain[ed] what they consider to be seditious messages calling for people to rebel against the authorities, as well as accusations that officers used excessive force on protesters.”

Thailand’s political space narrows by the day.





The rotten system II

17 09 2021

The smell from the rotten system is overpowering.

Remember the case of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and his two dozen luxury watches? He said he had borrowed the watches from a former classmate, Patthawat Suksriwong, who was dead, but that he had returned them. Remember how the National Anti-Corruption Commission exonerated him on unexplained – some might say, bogus – grounds?

That smelly story is back. Thai PBS reports that the “The Central Administrative Court has ordered Thailand’s anti-graft watchdog, the … NACC…, to reveal its findings from an investigation into the expensive wristwatches seen being worn in public by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit…”.

The court seems to recognize that the NACC is so politically-biased that it is widely viewed as a regime tool when it “ruled that, the disclosure of the findings…, including witness testimonies and Gen Prawit’s own testimonies, will demonstrate the transparency and accountability of the NACC and will enhance public trust and confidence in the agency.”

The NACC says it is considering what to do. We might guess that it is seeking advice from the likes of regime legal fixer Wissanu Krea-ngam and Gen Prawit himself.

Remember Pol Col Thitisan Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” recently caught on camera suffocating a man to death with plastic bags while “interrogating” a suspect and trying to extort money? You might think that Joe learned his plastic bag trick from watching gangster movies. But it seems he may have been trained by the police. Prachatai reports on “the case of Somsak Chuenchit and his 12-year effort to bring the police officers who tortured his son by beating and suffocating him with plastic bags during an interrogation.” The report states:

On 28 January 2009, Ritthirong ‘Shop’ Chuenchit ,18, was returning from a cinema in Prachinburi Province with a friend when he was stopped by the police. His clothing and motorcycle helmet reportedly fit the description given to police by a woman who had earlier been the victim of a gold necklace-snatching.

At the police station, the woman identified Ritthirong as the person who had taken her necklace. Ignoring his assertion of innocence, the interrogating officers beat the handcuffed youth and then suffocated him in a bid to determine where the necklace was hidden. Whenever Ritthirong chewed holes in the plastic bags to breathe, more were placed over his head.

Chuenchit survived but was framed and traumatized.

Remember the activists kept in jail for months when arrested and refused bail? Prachatai reports that the Court of Appeal granted bail to activists Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Jadnok, Thatchapong Kaedam, and Nutchanon Pairoj on 15 September, after having been denied bail several times. Several other activists continue to be detained without bail, including Arnon Nampa and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa. A rotten regime prefers that its opponents remain in jail, face never-ending repression and under threat.

The regime is rotten, the system is rotten.





Repression enters a new phase

9 09 2021

Thai Enquirer presents the disturbing figures on arrests made by the regime as it seeks to repress anti-monarchism:

More than 1,100 people have been prosecuted for political protests between July 2020 and August 2021, where over 400 were charged in August alone, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported this week.

The human rights lawyer’s organization said they have known of at least 1,161 people (621 legal cases) who are being prosecuted for alleged crimes that were related to political gathering and expression since the latest pro-democracy movement began on July 18, 2020.

Of the total, 143 are minors, aged under 18.

The majority of them are being charged with:

The violation of the state of emergency decree (902)
The violation of Section 215 of the Criminal Code which bar a gathering of more than 10 people with intention to create an act of violence or disturb the peace (320)
The violation of Section 112 or lese-majeste (124)
The violation of Section 116 or sedition (107)
The violation of the Public Assembly Act (106)
The violation of the Computer Crimes Act (74)
(Numerous people are facing multiple charges, which means that the sum of the charges is greater than the number of people charged.)

Of the 621 cases, 89 have been settled because the accused have paid the fine, two have been dropped by the prosecutor and one has been dropped by the court.

These figures are not surprising as the state’s repressive apparatus of police, prosecutors, and courts have worked to dampen criticism.

We may expect these figures to further increase as the police move to an even more aggressive strategy of pre-emptive strikes against those who rally. Thai PBS reports that Pol Maj-Gen Piya Tavichai, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, has explained that the “Talugas” protesters “are troublemakers and a danger to the public…”.

In another Thai PBS report, the relatively new police tactic saw them “swoop … on a group of hardcore ‘Talugas’ protesters as they converged at Din Daeng intersection in Bangkok this evening (Tuesday), before starting their routine provocation of the police…”.

Police reportedly “leapt from the trucks and charged into the protesters, arresting about 10 of them and confiscating some motorcycles,” carrying off those detained.

Such actions are provocative and may be illegal, but that never bothers the regime or its puppet judicial system.





Razor sharp

3 09 2021

A couple of days ago, Prachatai reported that the public prosecutor has indicted 19 members of the We Volunteer protest guard group on charges of what might be described as “cleaning with intent.”

They were “arrested on 7 December 2020 while clearing away razor wire left by the police at the Uruphong intersection.” But not just any wire, but “razor wire left behind by the police following several protest marches…”. The We Volunteer group claimed “they had received complaints from residents in the area that the razor wire made it hard for them to move about.”

As they cleared the wire, “they were surrounded by several units of crowd control police and were arrested …[and] charged with participating in an assembly of more than 10 people and causing public disorder, not dispersing an assembly after receiving an official order, and resisting an official.”

They have been bailed but have “also filed a lawsuit at the Civil Court last Thursday (26 August) against the Thai police for wrongful arrest.” Some members claim to have been assaulted by police.

We recall that cleaning up after protests has been common, although there now seems to be a razor sharp distinction between “good people” cleaning and others.





AI on shooting kids

23 08 2021

We reproduce in full a note by Amnesty International on the shooting of several children in recent rallies:

Thailand: Urgent investigation needed after live rounds fired at child protesters

The Thai authorities must urgently investigate the shooting of protesters in Bangkok that has left one child in a critical condition, Amnesty International said after confirming that three children were injured by live rounds of ammunition during a demonstration outside a police station on Monday.

The mother of a 15-year-old protester told Amnesty that her son is in a coma and that a bullet – believed to be live ammunition – remains lodged in his skull. The organization confirmed that another protester, aged 14, suffered a bullet wound in the shoulder from live ammunition while a third protester, aged 16, was shot in the foot.

The Thai police have denied using live ammunition and it is unconfirmed who fired the shots.

“The use of live ammunition against protesters is a deeply concerning development. The Thai authorities must urgently investigate the shootings of these child protesters, including any unlawful use of firearms,” said Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

“Thailand’s government must also investigate all reports of excessive and unnecessary force by police against protesters over the past year, and bring to justice anyone found responsible of causing physical harm to protesters.”

Over recent weeks, protesters have flocked to Bangkok’s streets and around Thailand to voice concerns over the official handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and other political grievances. The authorities have ramped up their use of rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas to disperse protests – even when protests have been peaceful.

In its recent report, Amnesty International called on Thai authorities to prioritize non-violent means, such as negotiation, mediation and dialogue, to de-escalate situations that might lead to violence.

The organization has also called on authorities to ensure that devices such as tear gas or water cannon are used only in situations of more generalized violence for the purpose of dispersing a crowd, and only when all other means have failed to contain the violence.

“Recent policing of assemblies, coupled with Thailand’s history of impunity for excessive and sometimes even lethal force against protesters, highlights the need for Thai authorities to change their approach. If they genuinely want to prevent human rights violations, they must stop repressing peaceful protest and instead facilitate and protect it,” said Emerlynne Gil.

“The police’s handling of protests, including those which are not peaceful, must be necessary and proportionate. Security forces must refrain from using the type of excessive force that has been seen repeatedly during protests since 2020.

“Police authorities must protect the rights of all peaceful protesters from disruption or violence by third party actors.”

Background

On the night of 16 August 2021, live ammunition was fired at protesters near the Din Daeng police station in central Bangkok as police tried to disperse peaceful demonstrators. The police have denied using live ammunition.

Ratchavitee Hospital, which is treating the injured protesters, said on 17 August that a 15-year-old is in a coma after a bullet struck him in the head. The 14-year-old protester who was shot in the shoulder has now been released from hospital.

Tens of thousands of Thais took to the streets to demand democratic reforms in largely peaceful protests throughout 2020 and into 2021 in Bangkok, the capital, and in provinces across Thailand. Amnesty International has found that authorities responded to protests with escalating arbitrary use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other less-lethal weapons and have used unnecessary and excessive force, with an apparent lack of accountability. The Thai Civil court has called on police to exercise restraint in their policing of assemblies.

As protests have reignited in recent weeks, police have fired tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators and arrested and detained numerous peaceful protesters – including under emergency provisions ostensibly put in place? to tackle Covid-19 and despite the country’s prisons reporting thousands of infections in recent weeks.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, from July 2020 to August 2021, at least 800 individuals have faced criminal charges – including sedition, royal defamation, computer-related crime, violation of the emergency provisions – in 374 lawsuits for joining peaceful protests, 69 of them children.





With 3 updates: Deadly serious II

18 08 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that “protesters gathered at Ratchaprasong intersection and tried to pelt pink dye at the nearby Royal Thai Police Office…. Around 100 protesters of the Thalu Fa group showed up at Ratchaprasong intersection at about 3.30pm to demand that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha resign.” They were also protesting the use of live ammunition in the previous day’s rally:

Police were the target on Tuesday as the protesters believed they had reacted violently during previous crackdowns. Three boys, aged 14-16, were shot by live rounds during the clash at Din Daeng on Monday night. The 15-year-old was in critical condition.

On that use of live rounds, the Thai Enquirer reports that on Monday evening, “police once again clashed with protesters which saw two demonstrators shot with live ammunition.” Later, the number was three.

The Nation also reported the shootings in “a clash with police in Bangkok’s Din Daeng area on Monday.” It added that one young protester “was shot in the back of his head. He fell immediately and was later taken to Rajavithi Hospital…”, and that at “around 9.30pm another protester was reportedly shot in his right arm and is being treated at the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital.”

The report continued to state that “police representatives insist only barriers and rubber bullets were used during the clash.”

The Bangkok Post took up the police claims, reporting that they “denied firing live ammunition at protesters of the Thalu Fah group during chaotic scenes in front of Din Daeng police station on Monday night, saying only rubber bullets were used…”.

Meanwhile, “Rajavithi Hospital announced on Tuesday morning it had found a bullet lodged in the head of a seriously wounded young protester rushed there by ambulance on Monday night. He remained in a coma.”

The report adds: “Pol Col Rathachai Sriwichai, the Din Daeng police chief, on Tuesday denied his men used live rounds against the protesters.” He was reportedly “responding to a video clip posted on the social media with a voice-over alleging that about 8.45pm Din Daeng police opened fire at the protesters with live ammunition and some protesters were hit.”

The policeman stated that “[p]olice were gathering evidence to take legal action…”. That’s kind of definitional of the regime’s political police. They are not collecting evidence about the shootings, but to charge social media users with computer crimes:

Pol Col Rathachai said he would prepare a report for his superiors on the posting of the online video and voice-over allegation.They would decide whether it constituted a violation of the Computer Crimes Act.

In total, at least:

… [s]ix protesters were reported injured…. Three of them reportedly had bullet wounds. They were an unidentified man, about 20 years of age, who was admitted to Rajavithi Hospital; Supat Wathanakul, age not known, admitted to Petcharavej Hospital; and, Thanapol Homya, 14, admitted to Chulalongkorn Hospital.”

The three others were injured in a running brawl. They were Apichok Narongchai, 22, who was admitted to Petcharavej Hospital; Krisda Janjamras, 18, admitted to Rama Thibodi Hospital; and Ukrit Photia, 17, admitted to Rama Thibodi Hospital….

Rajavithi Hospital announced on Tuesday that a 20-year-old man was brought to the hospital by a Ruam Katanyu Foundation ambulance on Monday night. He did not have any identification documents on him.

According to the announcement, the young man was not breathing on arrival at the hospital. There was a bullet wound in the left side of his neck. Doctors performed emergency CPR and after about six minutes he started showing vital signs again.

A computerised brain x-ray showed a bullet lodged in the man’s brain stem. The first and second neck vertebrae were fractured.

As of 9.40am on Tuesday, he was still in a coma and on a ventilator. His vital signs were steady.

Unconfirmed social media reports are that the police have now admitted to the use of live ammunition. We’ll update later.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post now reports that “[f]orensic police were to inspect the scene where the protester was shot yesterday. No experts so far have been able to establish where the shot that injured the protester came from.” Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Pakkapong Pongpetra said: “Live ammunition was fired [at the protester] but it did not come from police…”. This suggests that the social media accounts remain unconfirmed.

Update 2: Another Bangkok Post report tells readers that the boy in a coma is indeed just 15. He remains in a critical condition.

Update 2: Police now say they are investigating the shootings.





Further updated: A violent interlude III

16 08 2021

More on political protest.

Thai Enquirer has a series of photos and videos of the weekend’s protests. Thai PBS reports:

Young hard core anti-establishment protesters, many of them vocational students, clashed with crowd control police at Bangkok’s Din Daeng intersection again this evening (Sunday), as they tried to breach a wall of shipping containers and a police cordon blocking access to the out-bound side of Vibhavadi Rangsit highway.

These protesters did not join the three “car mob” convoys, organized by former red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar, Sombat Boonngarm-anong and the “Talu Fah” group, which were separately heading for the Ratchaprasong intersection, the Democracy Monument and Lat Phrao intersection, after travelling through the streets of Bangkok and Thonburi.

The young protesters gathered at Din Daeng intersection during the afternoon and, at about 5.30pm, tried to remove one of the shipping containers, in order to march toward Prime Minister Prayut Chan-op-cha’s residence inside the nearby barracks of the First Infantry Regiment of the Royal Guards.

Crowd control police responded, starting with teargas and followed by rubber bullets and high-powered water cannons. The protesters reportedly fought back with “ping pong” bombs, flares, giant firecrackers, bricks and sling shots.

We are reminded that it was only a few days ago that the media was calling for less police violence. Chairith Yonpiam, a news editor at the Bangkok Post, suggests that the “state’s heavy-handed approach suggests the authorities are confident that the anti-government movement has lost substantial public support.” He goes on to say that protesters  risk losing support if violence continues. Clearly, though, the state is violent. Across the globe, resurgent authoritarians have learned that they can easily out-wait and defeat peaceful protesters. Where does this leave protesters?

Update 1: Pravit Rojanaphruk posted today on Facebook, with some important observations:

Three brief observations about the young protesters clasing with police over the past two weeks.

1) They are mostly working class teenagers (a number of them have small motorcycles making them very mobile when confronting police), their families are among the most affected by the economic crisis due to COVID-19 mismanagement. They are not middle-class intellectuals or students from Chulalongkorn or Thammasat Universities like those leading the call for monarchy-reform.

2) They don’t take order from middle-class protest leaders and arevmore that ready to use the calls for prostests by whichever anti-government groups to assemble and continue the protest onward and further by confronting with riot police long after the protest organisers have called it a day.

3) They have their own way of expressing themselves and it is through the willingness to violently confront riot police with slingshots, fireworks, rocks, bricks, water bottles, wooden and metal sticks and burn symbols of police that they manifest themselves. Middle-class’ theory of nonviolence does not apply to them and is not attractive. What’s attractive for them is to be together in state of ‘communitas’, anthropologically speaking where they feel empowered and express their collective anger about their bleaked future prospect in Thai society as they are close to the bottom of the social echelon with little or no light at the end of the tunnel.

Meanwhile, The Standard had some breathtaking photos, We include some below:

Update 2: A reader sent us links to what are said to be recent protest videos, focused on police aggression, here and here.





Back in prison

10 08 2021

Several bailed protest leaders have been re-arrested and locked up.

Thai PBS reported that Ratsadon  leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Nutchanon Pairote, who “reported to the police at the Royal Thai Police HQ in Bangkok” on Sunday were arrest ed on warrants issued “for alleged offences committed in front of the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Command while demanding the release of 31 members of the ‘Ban Talu Fah’ group held inside…”.

Both were “charged with illegal assembly in public of more than five people, in violation of the Emergency Decree, while participating in activities which risk spreading COVID-19, in violation of the Communicable Disease Control Act.”

The Bangkok Post added that Parit was summonsed “over his role behind the graffiti that appeared outside the Region 1 office of the Border Police…. On arrival, police presented him with an arrest warrant…”.

Parit told supporters:

Today, I came with the courage to stand and face unjust power… I insist I have done no wrong. We demand democracy. We demand freedom and civil liberty. We demand a way out for the people.

But it’s okay, as the police must follow the boss’s order. They have more strength as they have more power.

However, I would like for everyone to save our strength… on 10 August, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration group and allies will organize the largest car mob ever.

The Bangkok Post also reported that another leader, Jatuphat Boonpathararaksa and three other protesters also “turned themselves in to police on Monday to fight a charge in connection with an anti-government rally last Tuesday.”

They “were charged with defacing the Thung Song Hong police station sign with red paint during a protest on Aug 3.”

Jatuphat denied the charge against him and three other protesters: “What we did was not harmful to other people. It was a peaceful act…”.

Prachatai’s added details reporting that Parit, Nutchanon, Sirichai Natueng, and Phromsorn Weerathamjaree were arrested at the police headquarters on Sunday. They were also charged with violating the Emergency Decree, the Communicable Diseases Act, and the Sound Amplifier Act, matching earlier charges used against other protesters.

Parit stated that “as he noticed police officers following him, he would be going to the police headquarters on Sunday (8 August), and if the police would like to arrest him, they could do so there.”

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) “said that Parit, Sirichai, and Phromsorn requested to have a trusted person with them while they are questioned, but the police denied their request, so the three activists refused to take part in the inquiry process.”

Meanwhile Thatchapong Kaedam and Panupong Jadnok “went to Khlong Ha Police Station and were taken into custody.” Another three other activists were reportedly arrested.

At 21.00 on 9 August, the “Thanyaburi Provincial Court approved the temporary detention request for the 9 activists, and later denied them bail on the ground that the activists act without fearing the law and without considering the society’s safety, peace, and order during the Covid-19 outbreaks.” They were forcibly “taken to the Rangsit Temporary Prison for a 14-day quarantine period, after which they will be detained at the Thanyaburi Prison.”

Later, Thai Enquirer provided a list of activists who were in detention:

  • Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak – a co-founder of the main student-led protest group, the Ratsadon
  • Natchanon Pairoj – the current chairperson of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD)
  • Sirichai “New” Natueng – a co-leader of the UFTD
  • Phromsorn “Fah” Weerathamjaree – a protest leader from the Ratsadon
  • Panupong “Mike Rayong” Jadnok – a co-founder of the Ratsadon
  • Tatchapong Kaedum – a protest leader from the Ratsadon
  • Thanapat or “Poon” (last name omitted) – an activist from the Ratsadon
  • Panadda or “Tong Thalu-Fah” (last name omitted) – an activist from the Ratsadon
  • Jatupat “Pai Daodin” Boonpattararaksa – a co-founder of the Ratsadon

Many of these detainees are already facing multiple charges, including sedition and lese-majeste.

The Bangkok Post later reported that the “Criminal Court approved a prosecution request to withdraw bail for Mr Parit in a case where he was involved in placing a plaque symbolising democracy at Sanam Luang on Sept 20 last year.”

The court is also considering revoking bail for Anon Nampha and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

There’s a clear pattern emerging that sees bailed activists being taken back to jail as protests are reignited.

 





Trampling remaining freedoms IV

10 08 2021

PPT is late getting to this story and we thank a reader for bringing it to our attention.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International issued a statement about the regime’s police issuing fines to “an Amnesty International staff member, along with three speakers and a panel moderator, for taking part in a panel discussion on 4 July focusing on the enforced disappearances of Thai activists, including Wanchalearm Satsaksit…”.

The police managed to conjure charges “under the Road Traffic Act and the Act on the Maintenance of Cleanliness and Order,” and under the Control Act B.E. 2493 for the use of an amplified speaker to advertise the event. The police issued “an administrative fine in response to their involvement at an in-person panel discussion on 4 July…”.

The other four who were fined were “a panel moderator and three other panelist speakers: a protestor, an 18-year-old student, and a lawyer who was friends with an individual who was forcibly disappeared.”

As Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra put it:

Our member of staff was simply doing her job to raise awareness in Thailand of international human rights law. The Thai authorities should not be fining her, the organizers or other panelists for simply speaking about the Thai authorities’ human rights obligations and the long history of enforced disappearances in this region….

Human rights defenders play a crucial role in protecting freedoms within society. To intimidate and fine them represents a threat not only to these activists but to anyone seeking to bravely defend the rights of others.

Amnesty International argues that the fines are a part of “ongoing efforts by the Thai authorities to silence criticism and repress freedom of expression.” It added: “The Thai authorities must stop issuing fines to people for peacefully exercising their human rights, and stop using the pandemic as an excuse to ramp up their repression.”