Opinion: Weekend crackdown in Bangkok shows emboldened security forces

A crackdown on Sunday by police on a non-violent group of protesters camped outside of government house is the latest escalation by Thai security forces as they continue to carry out operations against pro-democracy demonstrators.

Sunday’s violent arrest of the protesters was completely unprovoked as the demonstrators did not engage in any violent conduct and merely sat on the ground as they were manhandled and carried away by the police.

At least 99 people including several minors were arrested for “violating the emergency decree on public gathering,” according to a police statement.

Yet the decree, put in place to stem the tide of the Covid-19 pandemic, has been abused by the government and security forces to stop pro-democracy forces from gathering.

But what started as arbitrary arrests in the middle of the night has turned into full-scale street warfare conducted by border police units.

Tear gas bombs, rubber bullets, and batons and riot shields are now the order of the day rather than exception to the norm.

Compared to last year’s protests when the use of water cannons was met with universal disapproval within Thailand and an almost-apology from the Prayut Chan-ocha administration, it seems that both the police and the government are much more comfortable now to use violence against peaceful protesters.

Perhaps emboldened by the atrocities carried out by their contemporaries in Myanmar, the Thai security forces and the government may feel that anything they do will pale in comparison.

But the violence we are seeing being used by the security personnel must not be allowed to be come the norm. These are not normal actions by a normal government.

These are extraordinary measures carried out by a government that is arrogantly flexing its muscles knowing that there will be little international condemnation to follow.

The protesters must still highlight abuses by not only the government and the security forces but also the judicial system in excusing the actions of police.

There must be accountability and it must be pressed not only by the people out there protesting but by the opposition parties in parliament as well.

If they do not, then the escalation in violence will only continue and it will be a matter of time before lives are lost.

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