BANGKOK — Amnesty International on Wednesday issued a statement saying they will continue to operate in Thailand despite calls to shut down the country’s branch for alleged threat to national security.
The statement came after royalist groups said they will present a petition with 1.2 million signatures to the government calling for it to revoke Amnesty International’s charity license, which would effectively shut down the country’s branch of the international human rights organization.
“The anti-Amnesty campaign comes at a time when authorities are separately trying to pass a controversial law regulating non-profit organizations in the country,” Amnesty International’s deputy secretary general Kyle Ward said in the statement, referring to the draft NGOs Operations Bill due to be deliberated by the parliament.
“We offer constructive recommendations to authorities on steps they can take to uphold their international human rights obligations. While we recognize that the Royal Thai Government has a duty to protect public order and national security, we continue to highlight that authorities must do so in a manner that is proportionate.”
The petition was launched in November after Amnesty International criticized the Constitutional Court for ruling that three pro-democracy activists were committing sedition by attempting to overthrow constitutional monarchy.
The ruling also banned any similar activities in the future, which royalist groups said the organization violated it by continuing to defend pro-democracy activists. In November, Amnesty International launched a campaign asking people around the world to write a letter calling for the release of activist Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul.
“Amnesty International Thailand claims to be an international organization, but in fact it is only a group of ordinary individuals,” the petition wrote. “It claims to defend individual liberty, but in fact it interferes with Thailand’s internal affairs, promote wrong values, and encourage youths to break law and order.”
“The Center of People to Protect the Monarchy and the Thai people agree that Amnesty International Thailand must be expelled immediately.”
On Thursday, royalist groups, accompanied by assistant minister to the Prime Minister Seksakon Atthawong, submitted the petition to a representative of labor minister Suchart Chomklin at the Government House. Yellow-clad supporters held up placards stating “Protect the monarchy, support the NGO control law.”
Royalist groups said they will escalate their campaign if their demand is ignored.
Amnesty International works actively in Thailand in sensitive human right issues such as calling for abolishment of capital punishment and release of political prisoners, including those charged with the royal defamation law.