Police Deny Abusing Virus Emergency Law to Block Protests

Police are deployed around an area where two activists were arrested for anti-coup rally on May 22, 2020. Image: Prachatai.

BANGKOK — A police spokesman on Monday rejected the allegations that the authorities employed the Emergency Decree to suppress political activities.

Activists accused the government of misusing the decree – which officials said was enacted solely to combat the coronavirus, as a tool to suppress protests – but spokesman Col. Kissana Phathanacharoen said such accusations are baseless.

“My job is not to make people believe or not believe. We enforced the law as usual,” Kissana said by phone. “The organizers violated the decree and it’s the same with those found drinking alcohol in a group,” Kissana said on the phone Monday afternoon.

Two activists were arrested in front of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center on Friday while they were leading a small protest to mark the 6th year since the May 22, 2014 coup. They were taken to a police station and charged with violating the emergency law, which bans unauthorized assemblies.


Kissana said the two protest leaders clearly constituted a risk of coronavirus infections so they had to be arrested. The case will likely go to the court within a month, he added.

The pair faces a possible maximum two years in jail if found guilty.

But one of the arrested activists, Anurak Jeantawanich, said he has taken all the precautions necessary over the coronavirus, and insisted that he and fellow activist Totsaporn Serirak were not at the risk of spreading the disease.

“The government is using the emergency decree to deprive freedom and liberty of the people, no different from under the junta,” he said.


Anurak also said he will write a petition to the Office of the Attorney General to consider the arrests as politically motivated.

Hours before Anurak’s arrest, activist Parit Chiwarak and several others were detained by the police when they staged a small protest at Democracy Monument.

After being told by police not to move anywhere for hours – citing the emergency decree – two of the activists were eventually fined for traffic violations; police said they drove a pickup truck without a driver’s license.