Opposition parties and rights groups condemn Thai government for action against protesters

Opposition MPs and human rights groups have condemned the Thai government’s actions against pro-democracy protestors and its Declaration of a Serious Emergency Situation in Bangkok on Thursday.

Opposition parties

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the founder of the Progressive Movement and former leader of the now-disbanded Future Forward Party, said in an online statement that the crackdown on the protestors was unlawful and added that the government’s actions will only lead to more protests throughout the country.

“The government must release the demonstrators, immediately lift the state of emergency, and stop harassing civilians,” he said.

The former leader of Future Forward Party said the rallies at the Democracy Monument and Government House on Wednesday and Thursday morning, led by Khana Ratsadon 2020, were peaceful and within the protestors’ constitutional rights. Therefore, the crackdown was illegitimate.

“The Declaration of a Serious Emergency Situation was uncalled for since the protests were peaceful,” he said. “The government does not have the legitimacy nor any necessary reasons why the Declaration of a Serious Emergency Situation was declared, and the crackdown conducted,” he added.

He said the crackdown was against international standards since it was done during night time, which was hard to scrutinize, and it shows that the government had the intention to cover it up.

He said the government should find ways to meet the people’s demands or “the situation will only escalate, and protests will spread out throughout the country.”

“We would like to remind the people in power in this country… that the use of force to crackdown and silence the people will not lead to peace, but it will create more conflict and widen the rift within the society,” he said.

“The action of the people in power today is pushing the country down the path to a breaking point that will we not be able to return from,” he said.

One of the main opposition party, the Move Forward Party (MFP), has also released a three-point statement for the government to follow. They are:

  1. Immediately lift the state of emergency.

2. Allow detained protestors to know their charges and be able to meet their lawyers and families.

3. Allow for a rewriting of the constitution that can be accepted by all parties with a political system where the supreme power belongs to the people.

The Pheu Thai Party also released a statement declaring that the Declaration of a Serious Emergency Situation and state’s decision to crackdown on peaceful and unarmed protestors were “unfair”, “unlawful” and “illegitimate.”

Some of Pheu Thai’s MPs, along with MPs from the MFP, are visiting and trying to use their political positions as collateral to post for bail for more than twenty protesters and protest leaders who were arrested since Tuesday.

Prasert Jantararuangtong, Pheu Thai’s secretary-general, said that joining and holding political rallies were within a citizen’s constitutional rights. The party wants the litigation process against protestors to be done according to the rule of law.

“If the litigation process is done according to the rule of law, then I believe that it will be acceptable to everyone,” he said.

He added that the opposition parties are now asking for the parliament to be reconvened by at least on October 22 so that MPs and senators can go back to the debate on the constitutional amendments.

He said that the legal group iLaw’s petition to rewrite the entire charter, backed by more than 100,000 signatures from citizens, to be read at the next meeting.

Rights Groups

Amnesty International said in a statement on Thursday that the ban on gatherings of five or more people in Bangkok and sharing information that could create fear are “vague.” At the same time, the arrest of the protestors was “unjustified.”

“This vague, drastic order will lead to more people unfairly arrested, detained, and prosecute,” said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns.

“The scale of today’s early morning arrests seems completely unjustified based on yesterday’s events. The assemblies were overwhelmingly peaceful,” he added.

The international human rights NGO urged the Thai authorities to negotiate with the protestors as they are set for another gathering today and release the protestors detained earlier, immediately.

Ming also said that the crackdown and the protesters’ arrests were “clearly designed to stamp out dissent” and “sow fear in anyone who sympathizes with the protesters’ views.”

“All those detained must have access to legal counsel,” he said.

“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,” he added.

Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher on Thailand in Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said the Declaration of a Serious Emergency Situation in Bangkok means that Thailand has “essentially returned to authoritarian rule under Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha.”

“Authorities now wield broad powers without safeguards and accountability,” he said.

He said that anyone considered enemies of state can now be arrested and held without charge for up to 30 days.

At the same time, media freedom and freedom of expression are also being “gagged” by the state.

“The government has no legitimate reason to use the draconian emergency decree to suppress peaceful democracy movement and put human rights in Thailand in jeopardy,” he said.

He asked for concerned governments and the United Nations to speak out and call on Thailand to stop arresting pro-democracy activists and listen to their views instead.

“This is how the establishment in Thailand shuts down the thriving aspirations for democratic reforms,” he said. “Thailand has already entered uncharted territory. No matter what the outcome is, the country will never be the same again.”

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