Protesters must be released, charges dropped for those exercising freedom of assembly to express political opinion and compliance with international standards must be upheld
Today, 18 November 2022, the organizers of the #RatsadonStopsAPEC2022 campaign declared they wanted to march from the City Hall Plaza to the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (QSNCC) to oust Prayut Chan-ocha from being Prime Minister. The peaceful protest aims to express their opposition to the monopolistic capitalists. APEC have been allowed by the Thai government to dominate APEC 2022 meeting.
Around 10.00am on Dinso Road, the crowd control police blocked the route of the protesters. According to reports, photos, and video clips viral online, rubber bullets were fired at the protesters and physical assault was intended against them, unarmed demonstrators. They were hit by batons and iron rods. They were kicked and stomped. Rubber bullets were even fired at them at close range.
The situation lasted from the morning until afternoon. According to iLaw, two crackdowns were launched by the police to purge the protesters. For the first time, the crowd control police cracked down on them around 10.00 am and the second time around 12.45 pm.
As a result, several people got injured and property was damaged including journalists at the protesting site. In addition, several people were arrested. According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), as of 2.45pm, 25 individuals were held in custody at the Thung Song Hong Police Station.
The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) deems the protest led by the #RatsadonStopsAPEC2022 and civil society sector is to exercise right to for their freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution. It was triggered by how the Thai government has invited monopolistic capitalists to set the agenda and content of the meeting while shunning participation from civil sector even though they have been the receiving end of the grave impact caused by the monopolistic capitalists.
Therefore, as the protesters have exercised their constitutional right to freedom of expression and assembly, it is incumbent on the Royal Thai Police in charge of all law enforcement agencies to offer protection and facilitate their public assemblies.
Today’s state violent incidence shows how a number of crowd control police officers have cracked down on the public assembly claiming their self-defense even though people were protesting unarmed and peacefully.
The crowd control police and the Joint Security and Traffic Operation Command Centre during the APEC 2022 should ensure that any crowd control measures be carried out in compliance with international standards including international laws and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a state party. The right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly must be upheld in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
The suppression of peaceful assemblies with the use of rubber bullets without advanced announcement or by taking aim at close range on the unarmed protesters are considered a breach of the protocol and disproportionate.
The arrest and charging of the protesters solely for their exercising their right to freedom of expression is a travesty of justice and the weaponization of law to suppress the protesters and political movements.
CrCF therefore asks that the Thai Government and Royal Thai Police be held accountable for the use of force to crack down on the #RatsadonStopsAPEC2022 protest and that all protesters be released. Charges against those who have exercised their right to freedom of assembly and political expression must be dropped unconditionally while compliance must be made with international standards. We demand the stoppage of the use of any form of violence immediately.
As for what has transpired throughout the day of the crackdown of the public assembly, we demand that the Royal Thai Police as the in-charge agency and the government be held accountable for all the bodily damage inflicted on the people.
Their act abusively must be reviewed and subject to an independent inquiry. The officers who have acted disproportionately must be punished. Concerned agencies including the administrative agencies, the Ministry of Justice or civil society organizations and the National Human Rights Commission must ensure that the police force and the crowd control police receive proper training. It must be investigated if they understand and receive training on international human rights law or not.
Remarks: there was a report that 6 policemen minor injured at the same incident