Foreign countries, rights groups and student councils join chorus in condemning government crackdown

Student councils, opposition parties, human rights groups, and foreign observers have all condemned the Thai government’s use of force against unarmed protestors on Friday.

Student councils

Seven student councils groups including those from Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, Mahidol, Kasetsart, Srinakharinwirot, Chiang Mai University and Bangkok University have released a joint-statement on Saturday condemning the government.

They said that even though the rally was against orders from the Declaration of a Serious Emergency Situation in Bangkok, the protestors were unarmed and peaceful. Many of those hurt by security officials were high school students and university students.

“The crackdown was not in accord to international standards at all,” their statement said.

They asked for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s administration to stick to international standards, lift the state of severe emergency as it is uncalled for, and respect civil rights so that Thailand can return to peace.

In addition, representatives from eight university student organisations from Bangkok, Chiang Mai University and Prince of Songkla University has also condemned the state repression on Friday and to hold those in charge responsible.

Opposition parties

Six opposition parties, including Pheu Thai, Move Forward, Thai Liberal, Prachachat, Pueu Chart and Thai People Power Party, said in a co-statement that the protestors, who were mostly students, are the future of this country.

They said the right to assembly is guaranteed by the charter but the government is now using the emergency decree to act above the power granted to them by the supreme law.

“The crackdown has added fuel to the fire of hatred and escalate the crisis of faith,” their statement read.

“Such practice is an action of a country that is being rule by dictatorship and it will exacerbate the current economic crisis,” they added.  

The opposition parties said that PM Prayut was responsible for all actions and must bear full responsibility.

They asked for the PM’s administration to stop coming up with conditions that would lead the country in chaos and for the parliament to reconvene as soon as possible.

Suthin Khlangsaeng, chief opposition whip, said he was saddened and felt sympathy towards the children and innocence civilians that have come out to express their constitutional rights.

He said he wanted to be on the ground to fight with the people but his presence on the site would lead this into a fight between the opposition and the ruling coalition parties and that will discredit the fight of the students and the people.

Therefore, what he can do is to reconvene with the fight in the parliament instead and he urged for Chuan Leekpai, the house speaker, to invite all party leaders and representatives from the senate to agree upon the reconvening of an emergency parliament session to find a way out of the current political crisis.

The Move Forward Party (MFP) said in a statement that the crackdown was against the United Nations’ Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement.

The party pointed to the guideline for the use of water cannon which “should only be used in situations of serious public disorder” where there is a “significant likelihood of loss of life, serious injury, or the widespread destruction of property”.

“The party would like to condemn the actions of security officers and their commanders for using water cannon mixed with chemical which is preserve only for a rioting situation,” the party said.

Pita Limjaroenrat said more than a hundred protestors and protest leaders have been arrested while many more were injured because they have only umbrellas to protect themselves.

He said the oppositions parties are now working to help bail out and provide legal advice to protest leaders and protestors that have been arrested. 

They are also putting pressure on the government to reconvene the parliament.

Human rights organizations

Stephane Dujarric, the United Nations’ spokesperson, said on Friday that the United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Thailand has been “closely” monitoring the protests in the country and stressed that people must be allowed to demonstrate peacefully.

“We’ve been monitoring the situation closely. In fact, on the ground our colleagues at OHCHR have been observing the protests, routinely engaging with the authorities,” he said during a press briefing.

“We have said many times and many places of the world, people have a right to demonstrate freely. They should be allowed to exercise that right, the right to demonstrate freely and peacefully,” he added.

Ravina Shamdsani, a spokesperson for OHCHR, said earlier that the protests in Thailand has been “largely peaceful” but the commission is concern that state of serious emergency situation would affect Thai people’s ability to express their fundamental rights.

“The decree negatively impact on the exercises of fundamental freedoms as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Thailand is a party,” she said.

“We are concern about the detention and arrest of many activists and human rights defenders as well, including those who were associated with the demonstration,” she added.

The commission urged the Thai government to ensure that “no one is targeted, detained, or charged with serious offenses” for exercising their basic human rights to freedoms of assembly and expression.

They also asked for the government to ensure that due process rights and judicial safeguards are systemically provided for every person who was arrested and detained including routine access to their lawyers and families at all time.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Saturday that Thai police has “unnecessarily used water cannon against peaceful pro-democracy protesters” which is in violation of international human rights standards.

“By sending in the police to violently disperse peaceful protesters, Thailand’s government is embarking on a wider crackdown to end the students’ protests,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director.

They also pointed out to attacks against press freedom including the arrest of Kitti Pantapak, a journalist from Prachatai and the fact that International news reporting on Thailand, such as by the BBC World Service, has been blocked on the country’s main cable TV network, True Visions.

At the same time, the authorities have also pressed satellite service providers to block the broadcast of Voice TV, a channel know to provide critical coverage on the government.

They said since the Declaration of a Serious Emergency Situation in Bangkok was declared on Thursday, the Thai police has already arrested at least 22 people, including the protest leaders Arnon Nampha, Parit Chiwarak, Prasiddhi Grudharochana, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have also reported that at least 85 protesters faced illegal assembly charges for holding peaceful protests in Bangkok and other provinces, some were charged with sedition.

“Thai authorities have routinely enforced censorship and gagged public discussions about human rights, political reforms, and the role of the monarchy in society,” they said in the statement.

Amnesty International said that the use of water cannons with irritants and dye by the Thai Police was “excessive” and “unwarranted.”

“The excessive force used to disperse tonight’s peaceful protests was unwarranted and in no way complied with the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality, as the Thai authorities claim,” said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns.

“The use of water cannons and irritants not only poses serious risk of injury, the use of dye is indiscriminate and could lead to the arbitrary targeting and arrest of peaceful protesters, journalists, or simply local residents who were marked with the coloring,” Amnesty said.

Ming said Thai authorities should “respect, protect and ensure” protestors’ exercise of the human rights and they must ensure the safety of journalists and observers.

“They must let peaceful protesters express their views – not exacerbate tensions further,” he added.

Foreign governments and observers

Joshua Wong, one of the pro-democracy activists Hong Kong, has expressed his solidarity with the movement in Thailand via series of tweets which one said, “People should not be afraid of their governments. Only governments should be afraid of their people.”

Bob Menandez, a US Senator from New Jersey and the senior Democrat Party chair on Foreign Affairs, said the events in Thailand is “deeply troubling”.

“Draconian emergency decrees should not be used as an excuse to crush peaceful protests or freedom of speech and assembly,” he said.

“The government must end its political repression and immediately and unconditionally release democracy activists,” he added.

Germany’s foreign ministry also told Mathias Peer, a correspondent for Southeast Asia and India, that the they are “closely monitoring” political developments in Thailand and “freedom of expression must be possible”.  

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