Conflicts & War

Unicef calls for protection of children in Thailand protests

Bangkok, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) on Tuesday called for the protection of children and young people taking part in the anti-government protests in Thailand following incidents of alleged intimidation in several schools across the country.

In a statement, Unicef said the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Thailand, guarantees the right of minors to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including in peaceful protests, without being intimidated.

The statement by the UN agency was issued a day after students from several schools in the country expressed their support for the weeks-long protests organized by university organizations for democratic reforms.

While singing the national anthem in the morning, students raised their hands in a three-finger salute, a gesture from the film “The Hunger Games,” or wore white bows, both adopted as symbols by the anti-government protesters.

Videos on social media show police removing the bows worn by students at a school in the northeast of the country while some teachers intervened to break up protests in other schools.

In Nakhon Sawan, a province in northern Thailand, a teacher struck a student and forced him to delete a video of the protest but later apologized to the parents.

“Unicef reiterates that schools and learning institutions should be safe havens for children, where they can constructively voice their opinions and their ideas be acknowledged,” the UN agency said.

“Schools and learning institutions should provide a safe space for students to exchange ideas and engage in meaningful discussions, where they can build their communication and negotiation skills, and contribute to finding peaceful solutions to challenges they face,” it added.

According to Unicef, children should be “able to voice their opinions peacefully about issues that affect their present and future, without fear or intimidation.”

Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan said on Monday that students have the right to express their opinions “within the legal framework,” although he warned that they may be arrested if they break the law.

Protests were held again at some schools on Tuesday against the administration of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military general behind the 2014 coup, accused of having damaged democratic institutions and persecuting opponents.

At the end of July, university students across Thailand launched a new wave of anti-government protests to call for a reform of the constitution and the dissolution of parliament, which drew 10,000 people on Sunday.

The protesters allege that the 2019 elections in which Prayuth was elected as the country’s prime minister were neither fair nor transparent while the senate was hand-picked by the authorities. EFE-EPA

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