BANGKOK — Amnesty International released a report on Wednesday saying the government has suppressed the rights of child protesters through tactics such as surveillance, intimidation, asking invasive questions, and pressuring parents of child protesters.
“Chompoo, a Bangkok-based 13-year-old child protester, told Amnesty International that she has been followed around by authorities since she started her activism in March 2022. Similarly, a 16-year-old LGBTI activist was trailed by authorities to his house and school, which affected his mental health with panic attacks, insomnia and other stress brought on by the continuous surveillance,” the report entitled “We Are Claiming Our Future: Children’s Right to Peaceful Assembly in Thailand” stated.
“Anna, a Bangkok-based student activist who advocates for education reforms, said she and her friends were physically dragged out of a restaurant by police and officials from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the main agency in charge of child protection, because the authorities feared they were going to stage a protest at Democracy Monument as members of the royal family were due to travel past the area.”
Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong, Thailand researcher at Amnesty International who interviewed 30 child protesters said, “Children with their whole lives ahead of them now face severe repercussions merely for participating in peaceful protests.”
Chanatip, who spoke at the press conference on Wednesday, added that the majority of monarchy-reform protesters between 2020 and 2022 were people under the age of 18. At least 59 incidents of harassment occurred between 2021 to 2022.
The rights group is calling all the charges, including lese majeste, sedition, and violation of the COVID-19 emergency decree, to be dropped and for harassment to end.
“To date, nearly 300 under-18s have faced criminal charges,” the researcher said.
Speaking through a pre-recorded video message, Clement Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, said at the press conference held at Bangkok Arts and Culture Center that the lese majeste law continues to affect the rights to free assembly in Thailand.
Voule says the lese majeste law “justifies oppression.”
“I was in contact [with the Thai government] to raise serious concerns … This is a direct violation of the fundamental freedom and right of the people. We consider the law to be contradictory to fundamental rights … including freedom of assembly. The Thai government needs to take into account children’s rights to protest peacefully.”
Petch was one of the young protesters who attended the event. He joined the monarchy-reform movement back in 2020 when he was 17 and now faced multiple charges including lese majeste.
During a questioning by a government psychologist, he said he was asked: “Do you have sex with a person of the same sex?” Petch, who is LGBTI says he “felt unsafe” as a result.
Petch, now 20, said his future prospects have been much affected as a result of his political activism and he now tries to balance politics and personal life.
Another young protester, Sand, 17, who faced 11 charges, told the audience she “confessed” in some of the charges “so it will be over quickly”.