Bangkok, Aug 11 (efe-epa).- The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) on Tuesday called on Thailand to respect the rights of assembly and freedom of expression for participants in the country’s anti-government protests.
“Peacefully expressing opinions in public is not a crime. Those who participate in peaceful protests should not do so at the cost of their freedom,” Malaysian MP and APHR Director Charles Santiago said in a statement.
APHR also called for the dropping of charges against two of the protest leaders, lawyer Anon Nampa and student activist Panupong Chadnok, who are free on bail after being charged last Friday with multiple crimes, including sedition.
The demonstrations against the government led by former coup-maker Prayut Chan-ocha are mostly organized by student groups in favor of democracy and demanding constitutional reform.
The protests have also openly criticized the monarchy, an almost sacred establishment in the country and protected from criticism by harsh laws and jail terms of up to 15 years.
Prayut and his government have repeatedly threatened to use the laws against those who dare to denigrate the Royal Family.
“Differences of opinion are normal in a democratic system. But we have to be careful not to infringe on the rights of others or offend the highest institution in the country. No one will accept it,” Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta said Monday.
The student movement began protesting in February, after the dissolution by the Constitutional Court of the progressive party Future Forward, which joined the support of young people in the 2018 elections and were resumed in mid-July, after a hiatus due to the pandemic of COVID-19.
Thousands of students gathered Monday night on the campus of Thammasat University to demand the dissolution of the Legislative branch, where 250 senators handpicked by the military junta led by Prayut between 2014 and 2018 have considerable weight to choose the Executive branch.
A massive demonstration is planned for this weekend in front of the Democracy Monument, in the historic center of Bangkok.
“The Thai authorities should know by now that their repeated attempts to silence democratic movements are not only illegal but also counterproductive. In particular, young Thais are hungry for change and institutional threats will only strengthen their resolve,” Santiago warned. EFE-EPA