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Hundreds of anti-NPO Bill demonstrators marched from the UN Headquarters to Government House on Monday morning.
Police put up a range of physical barriers to block the protestors, including razor wire and shipping containers on different sections of Ratchadamnoen Road leading to government house in Bangkok.
Early in the morning, protesters marched in front of the UN Headquarters calling for change.
“Withdraw the NGO Bill!” the protesters chanted as they marched. Others held up placards with familiar anti-government messaging, including “Fuck the coup!”
The protestors are mostly from the People’s Movement Against the Draft Laws that Undermine Freedom of Association, a newly formed network of civil society members calling for the NPO Law, or ‘NGO Bill’ to be withdrawn.
Demonstrators claim the draft law violates freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and could ultimately cripple Thai civil society. Last week, protesters pressured the government by submitting a letter to the Prime Minister and his cabinet demanding the law to be immediately rescinded.
“We also demand that all efforts to push for the law be immediately stopped. Yet, our demands have not been met,” the letter said.
“Today, the People’s Movement Against the Draft Laws that Undermine Freedom of Association has therefore gathered again to reiterate our opposition and demand that the government immediately stop pushing for the draft act.”
The protestors, along with numerous human rights groups, say the law does not comply with Thailand’s international human rights obligations as the law’s written language is vague and problematic. Many groups fear that the Thai state could perceive “almost any action” as violating the law’s broadly defined provisions.
If the law passes, non-profit organizations are required to uphold “good morals” or avoid “disturbing the normal happy existence of persons,” in the country. But many groups say this language is subjective and not clearly defined. If a non-profit organization fails to abide by the restrictions, they could be subject to a daily fine of 10,000 baht (US$295), or face the risk of closing operations.
Protesters from the anti-government group, ‘Thalugaz,’ also made an appearance to show their support.
The protesters reached the front of Government House at approximately 10am where they encountered a line of police standing behind a wall of razor wire. Undeterred, the demonstrators continued to demand for the withdrawal of the Bill.
“Remove these obstacles, and remove the NGO bill!”
Feature photo via the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLAW)