In a statement, the independent rights experts called for an end to a crackdown on peaceful protests. “The imposition of a state of emergency is the latest in a series of draconian measures aimed at stifling peaceful demonstrations and criminalizing dissenting voices”, they said.
🇹🇭 #Thailand: UN experts urge the Thai government to guarantee the fundamental rights of peaceful assembly and free speech. They call for an end to a crackdown on #PeacefulProtests. Learn more: https://t.co/TRqz5kgedF pic.twitter.com/wXHDjMx2Kc
— UN Special Procedures (@UN_SPExperts) October 22, 2020
Urging authorities to allow students, human rights defenders and others to protest in a peaceful manner, the UN experts called for demonstrators to “be allowed to freely speak their mind and share their political views, both online and offline, without prosecution.”
On 15 October “severe emergency measures” were imposed around the capital Bangkok, prohibiting gatherings of more than four people. Since then, police have subsequently applied force, including the use of water cannon, to disperse protesters who were demonstrating peacefully.
On Thursday, authorities revoked the emergency decree from a week earlier, according to news reports, declaring that violence on the streets had eased. The student-led protests are calling for the Prime Minister to step down.
“The security authorities are using unnecessary force against the peaceful protesters,” the experts contined. “Such violence only risks escalating the situation. Instead of trying to silence peaceful demonstrators, we urge the Thai government to promptly seek an open and genuine dialogue with them.”
Fundamental freedoms at risk
Thousands of people have joined pro-democracy protests in Bangkok, calling for government and monarchy reforms. Since 13 October 2020, at least 80 individuals have been arrested, of whom 27 remain in detention.
Some have been charged under Thailand’s Criminal Code on counts of sedition and holding an “illegal assembly”, some have also been charged under the Computer Crimes Act for using their social media accounts to call on the public to participate in the rallies, and two of those indicted face lifetime sentences for allegedly using violence against the monarchy.
Raising serious concerns over the charges, the experts Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Irene Khan and Mary Lawlor, called on Thai authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release any individual detained for the sole exercise of her fundamental freedoms”.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council. They work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.