Amnesty flags persecution of underage protesters in Thailand

Bangkok, Feb 8 (EFE).- Amnesty International (AI) on Wednesday flagged the arrests, prosecution, surveillance and intimidation of underage protesters in Thailand, demanding that their rights be respected.

In a report, AI stated that since 2020, close to 300 activists under the age of 18 have been charged with crimes like sedition and lèse-majesté, for which they could face years or even decades in prison if found guilty.

The NGO, headquartered in London, based its report “We are Reclaiming Our Future,” on interviews with 30 child protesters and activists from different parts of the country.

Most of these activists, including underage LGBTI activists and children from ethnic minority groups participated in mass demonstrations seeking structural reforms in Thailand, including the monarchy and the army, in 2020 and 2021.

“Children with their whole lives ahead of them now face severe repercussions merely for participating in peaceful protests,” said Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong, Amnesty International’s Thailand researcher.

“Thailand has a legal obligation to guarantee children’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly, but instead, exercising that right has come at a steep cost for protesters, who are potentially facing decades behind bars,” Chanatip added.

AI further reported that authorities use surveillance and harassment tactics to intimidate minors for participating in street protests.

A 13-year-old protester told researchers that the police have followed her since she started her activism, while a 16-year-old LGBTI activist said he suffers panic attacks due to the continuous surveillance on his house and school.

The NGO said that authorities pressurize parents to halt their children’s activism, which sometimes results in domestic violence.

A student who participated in the 2020 protests at the age of 17 said his parents used physical violence and confiscated his mobile phone and daily allowance to keep him from protesting.

The report also highlights the violence used against child protesters in 2021 in Bangkok’s Dim Daeng district.

Three protesters, aged 14, 15 and 16 then, were shot with firearms, supposedly by unknown individuals among the public, after which one of them fell into a coma and eventually died.

Another protester in Din Daeng, 17, said the police fired rubber bullets at him and then used cables to constrain him.

“After I got shot, I tried to run away, but riot control police approached me from the front and the back. They grabbed me and made me fall down. Then I recalled they kicked me and used something hard – like a baton or gun – to hit me. They searched me all over my body, tied me up with cable ties and continued kicking me,” he said.

University students led pro-democracy protests in 2020 to demand reforms in Thailand and open a public debate regarding the role of Thailand’s all powerful monarchy, whose popularity has declined in recent years.

The Thai government is run by the former military brass who staged a coup in 2014 and then retained their rule in elections lacking transparency in 2019.

In 2020, this government began using the lèse majesté law against protesters again after a two-year gap in its enforcement.

The law, included in article 112 of the Thailand Penal Code, lays down a prison sentence of 3 to 15 years for someone who defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent, making it one of the most draconian lèse majesté laws in the world.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 215 people, including minors, have been accused of lèse majesté since Nov 2020, while 1,888 others have been charged with crimes related to the protests or their political speeches. EFE


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