Bangkok, Jul 2 (EFE).- Thai police used water cannons filled with chemical irritants to disperse student-led protests demanding democratic reforms in the country, Amnesty International (AI) said Friday.
In a report, titled “My face burned as if on fire,” the nonprofit analyzes and documents the use of excessive force used by the security forces against the massive peaceful demonstrations that began last year.
Through interviews with dozens of eyewitnesses and victims, ground reports and analysis of 87 verified videos, Amnesty denounces the “reckless and violent tactics” adopted by the authorities to disperse demonstrations by firing chemicals from water cannons and rubber bullets at close range and beating protesters.
“Bystanders and protesters, most of them not engaged in any unlawful or violent behavior, suffered traumatic violence at the hands of the police: people were beaten, hit by rubber bullets and tear gassed, all because they dared to gather peacefully and express themselves,” Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director of Research, said.
The protests have been suspended for several months on account of the Covid-19 pandemic but the organizers are seeking to reactivate them and have called for a demonstration on Friday afternoon outside the Government House in Bangkok.
Amnesty urges the police to protect the rights of the protesters and employ non-violent means, including negotiation, mediation and dialog, to avoid further incidents, in addition to “immediately” dropping all charges brought against the activists.
“The Thai authorities are using violence and judicial harassment to quash nationwide discontent. These fear tactics are only helping to highlight many of the protesters’ grievances, further fueling the protests,” Emerlynne Gil said.
The pro-democracy protests, led by students and generally peaceful, began in July 2020 to demand the resignation of the Thai prime minister, the drafting of a new Constitution – since the current one was written by the old military junta (2014-2019) – and the goal of reducing the power wielded by the military.
However, the boldest demand is a reform of the monarchy to cut down its political influence, and an amendment of the lèse majesté law, which punishes criticism of the crown with between 3 to 15 years in prison.
At least 679 people, including 43 minors, have been charged with crimes linked to their participation in the protests since the demonstrations began, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights organization.
Another 101 people have been charged under the controversial lèse majesté law, criticized by the United Nations and the European Union for being excessively strict, due to their activities during the protests. EFE