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Thai “watchlist” of democracy activists violates right to privacy, freedom of movement, freedom of expression

Statement: Thai “watchlist” of democracy activists violates right to privacy, freedom of movement, freedom of expression

(Bangkok, August 13, 2021) – A ‘top secret’ document circulated online earlier this month believed to be produced by the Thai government – lists 183 people including opposition politicians, outspoken democracy activists, lawyers and journalists categorised by their perceived threat level to the state.

The list, which has not been verified but was purportedly compiled by the Immigration Bureau, includes 130 males aged between 17 and 64, six of whom are outside the kingdom.

The remaining 53 are women aged 15 to 61. Seven are under the age of 18, two of them are just 15-years-old.

The list is signed off with “Updated on June 1, 2021 at 17:00 by Pol. Col. (Name undisclosed) of the Immigration Bureau 2.”

Many of the names on the list are accused of breaching Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, the lèse-majesté law which carries up to 15 years in jail per charge.

Others are critics of the government of General Prayut Chan-ocha, including opposition politicians or those working for opposition political parties, lawyers, political activists, youth activists in Bangkok and provinces. 

This has resulted in intimidation and harassment. Some on the watchlist have complained of being followed and of facing verbal or online harassment. Students are being followed and watched at their dormitories, faculties or homes, visited during classes, and followed to restaurants.

The police have asked for their class schedules from university staff, while invites to have  ‘coffee’ or a ‘drink’ with authorities are common.

This is not the first time the government has created and circulated a watchlist or blacklist of individuals seen as adversaries or threats.

But this watchlist is believed to contain the largest number of people under the government’s monitoring.

Similar incidents have happened since the 2014 coup.

A secret deep state operation has previously created and disseminated other ‘watchlists,’ such as the “Toppling Monarchy Network” in 2010, or the “Royal Defamation Movement” after the 2014 coup d’état.

Such lists violate human rights and liberty guaranteed by many international laws, including Articles 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a number of Human Rights Conventions, Article 16 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand.

They also breach personal data protection laws against limiting, spying, and encroaching on the rights to privacy, expression, movement, and social and political participation of individuals without independent judicial review. This is a serious violation of the people’s right to security.

In addition, the watchlist has instigated fear, distrust and hatred among the people, causing fractures and political conflict that can lead to violence.

It stigmatizes and criminalizes the people on the list as a threat to the society and the nation while giving permission to those who claim to be “loyal,” “patriotic,” or “good” citizens to act arbitrarily in a manner that threatens the rights and freedom of those on the list. For example, nine people on the “Royal Defamation Movement” list have become political refugees and some, including Mr. Wanchalearm Satsaksit, have been forced to disappear.

With the above-mentioned facts and reasons, we, the undersigned organizations, have the requests to the relevant agencies as follows:

1. The House of Representatives must examine the Watchlist by assigning relevant committees, and the National Human Rights Commission, shall investigate and obtain facts from the government. The Royal Thai Police must investigate the legitimacy and purpose of the document, any actions taken based on the document and the impact on human rights and individual rights of the persons listed, especially those who do not have arrest warrants or the court order to ban them from leaving the country.

2. The agencies in (1) must review this watchlist and other blacklists that government agencies have made, distributed, and acted upon unlawfully against human rights.

3. The Royal Thai Police and agencies that create or possess this watchlist must immediately destroy it or withdraw the names from the watchlist, especially those who are not banned by the court from leaving the kingdom; and

4. The relevant officials must perform their duties with professional responsibility, integrity, and respect for the rights and freedom of the people, and strictly adhere to the law.

Signatories:

Cross Cultural Foundation
Union for Civil Liberty
– Legal Center for Human Rights
Duayjai Group
Jasad
Patani Human Rights Organization Network
Northern Development Foundation
Manushya Foundation
Bang Kloi Coalition

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