Hardened royalists staged a protest against Amnesty International Thailand at Silom Complex on Monday. The group said that the human rights watchdog is undermining the country’s stability by campaigning for the rights of the detained protest leaders who are calling for the reformation of the royal institution.
The royalist protesters demand that Amnesty International be kicked out of the country for supporting pro-democracy protest leaders who are currently detained on pretrial detention.
The small rally came only days after Prayut instructed authorities on Friday to investigate whether Amnesty International Thailand had broken any laws. If the government finds evidence that they did, then their license could be revoked.
Junta-appointed senator Somchai Sawaengkarn, who is also the chairman of the senate committee on human rights, liberty, and consumer protection, told reporters on Friday that he agreed with Prayut’s instruction.
“The premier can certainly order the investigation to find out if they have properly registered since there are questions whether Amnesty International Thailand has been guiding protests and providing financial support for violent protests in Thailand,” Somchai said.
He added that besides Amnesty International Thailand, the Anti-Money Laundering Office should also investigate other organizations to find out if any of them have been operating beyond their scope of duties or interfering with the country’s affairs.
Many royalists, along with Somchai, claim that organizations like Amnesty are looking to destabilize the country. They say that the group has political objectives, such as advocating for the amendment of the constitution that could lead to the overthrowing of the constitutional monarchy system or the amendment of the lese-majeste law.
“Some of them [rights organizations], which are the minority, have not followed the proper process,” wrote Panitan Wattanayagorn, a lecturer in political science at Chulalongkorn University, on his Facebook on Saturday.
“For example, some of them do not have a license, they did not set up a proper office and they did not send their operational plan to the Thai government.”
He said that some of them have interfered in politics, which is a legal violation and bad diplomatic protocol.
The Prayut government is prosecuting more than 1,600 people for politically related charges and more than 160 people have been charged with alleged violation of the lese-majeste law since November 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
Currently, 27 people are being held in pretrial detention for charges related to protests and political expression including six people who are being charged with lese-majeste such as human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul.
Human rights groups have dubbed the lese-majeste law as “draconian,” and they are calling for the government to release detained protest leaders and pro-democracy activists on bail so they can properly fight for their case.
Laddawan Tantivitayapitak, a human rights scholar, said on Sunday that Amnesty International Thailand is simply performing its duties as an international rights group. She says that calling for the release of political prisoners is integral to their mission as an organization.
She said the international group has been advocating for human rights and political prisoners in Thailand for the past four decades and their works have always been accepted by the society and the global community.
She urged the government to reconsider their repressive actions and the decision to push the NGO out of the country or Thailand could add more proof that the country is indeed being run by a military dictatorship.
“A democratic government must be able to accept criticism,” Laddawan explained. “If a government cannot accept criticism, it is considered to be an authoritarian government.”