Legal experts with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) say police are using increasingly severe criminal charges to crack down on young Din Daeng protesters, including possession of deadly weapons and explosives.
The legal monitoring group has documented numerous cases where young men, and many children, are facing serious criminal charges for their involvement in the protests.
According to the legal group’s data from August to October, police have arrested 176 young people, aged 15-18, and another 46 children under the age of 15 for a range of charges.
TLHR found that since August, 25 people have been charged with possession of explosives and dozens of others for carrying weapons.
Khumklao Songsomboon, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said police must consider each individual case carefully and set up investigations based on facts.
“Some were charged with attempted murder, illegal possession of a gun and weapons,” Khumklao said. “The officials must also look over all related facts, including what happened before the clash had started. What started the clash? Did the clash happen before or after the protest started being dispersed?”
Khumklao added that Thai crowd control officials mainly adhere to domestic law, such as the Emergency Decree according to the constitution. She said police must follow international laws on how to disperse protests.
“The police should try to avoid any situations which could lead to long-term violence,” she said.
“If a protester is being arrested under an overly enforced charge which they haven’t done, they have the right to say no, whether they have a lawyer with them or not.”
But the majority of the young people accused of these crimes deny the charges, saying they have never possessed deadly weapons nor explosives.
The latest two men to be arrested are Theeraphat, 21, and Pataveekan, 25 for a rally on October 31. Authorities say they threw a bomb at a police car.
Teeraphat was arrested in front of his home on Soi Samsen 4 at around 4:50 p.m, while Pataveekan turned himself into Makkasan police station around 1 p.m on the same day.
After his arrest, police forced him to go to his home to look for evidence. Officers raided his home without a search warrant. Police also held him without a lawyer at Din Daeng police station for hours.
Police are charging them with possession of weapons, explosives, and assaulting police officers. But the young men deny the charges.
“They don’t carry guns or own any explosions,” said Nokdaeng, a mother-like figure for many of the disenfranchised young men challenging the government.
“They don’t have enough money to buy those weapons. And they don’t have the genuine feelings to hurt anyone. The explosions they used were made of only rocks, tape, and paper which can’t cause severe violence. These are more like small fireworks,” she said.
Nokdaeng views the young men like her own children. She’s been offering emotional support, giving them food and some pocket money to travel back home for several months. She doesn’t agree with violence but feels that these young men need emotional support as that is the source of their pain.
Thai police could not be reached by the time of publishing. However, police have been injured in clashes and one officer was even shot with a live bullet in early October.
“This will only bring more revenge and violence over time,” Nokdaeng said about the ongoing violence in Din Daeng.
“It will only create more animosity when they see their friends beaten and threatened.”