Amnesty Intl. urges Thailand to drop charges against pro-democracy activists


Amnesty International has called on the government of Thailand to withdraw charges against anti-government protesters described as “crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly”.

Amnesty instead called on people around the world to send letters to the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha supporting its demand.

The human rights advocacy group in a statement issued on Friday said the charges laid against 31 protesters for the July 18 rally were aimed at silencing critics and were a violation of freedom of expression and should be immediately dropped.

“This recent slew of arrests of peaceful demonstrators illustrates the authorities’ intensifying crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly,” it said.

The pro-democracy rally at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on July 18 was the first since the country was hit by the coronavirus pandemic early this year.

It attracted about 1,000 demonstrators. It was followed by a series of small rallies around the country, and a much larger rally at Democracy Monument on Aug. 16.

The protesters are calling for a new constitution, an end to intimidation of critics of the government, and a House dissolution and general election.

Rights lawyer Anon Nampa and university academic Panupong Jadnok were among the 31 people charged by the police.

The two are being held in custody after the Criminal Court on Thursday revoked their bail at the request of Samranrat police. The court accepted the police argument that the two men broke the court bail stipulation that they refrain from similar offences.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of seven years behind bars. The two activists are being detained in Bangkok Remand Prison.

A rally was planned outside the prison on Friday to demand their release.

Protest leaders have set Sept. 19 for another major rally, and promised there would be a much larger crowd at the Democracy Monument and in Ratchadamnoen Avenue that day.

Mr Anon posted a Facebook message on Thursday calling for people to go out on Sept. 19. “Let my detention be a ‘receipt’ of intimidation against people. Sept. 19, 2020 will be the day to respond,” he wrote.

He called his detention a “gamble for change” and called for support for the rally in two weeks’ time, to show that protesters were moving in the right direction. (Source: Bangkok Post)