Mr Prayuth Chan-ocha,
Prime Minister of Thailand,
Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131
Dear Prime Minister Prayut,
I am William Nicholas Gomes, a British human rights activist and freelance journalist.
I stand in solidarity with the peaceful democracy movement in Thailand as it continues to push for fundamental freedoms and democratic reforms, in the midst of government repression.
The Government of Thailand should abide by its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect and protect the people’s rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
I assert that the ‘State of Severe Emergency,’ announced on 15 October 2020 violated international human rights standards and failed to meet the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality.
I condemn the use of the ‘national security’ narrative to block these peaceful protests, as well as the attempts to portray the movement and its leaders as a threat to national security and to the stability of the nation.
I further condemn the use of police violence, including the use of water cannons on 16 October 2020 against peaceful protesters, which included high school and university students. This fails to meet OHCHR’s guidance which states that water cannons are advisable for use only for situations ‘of serious public order where there is a significant likelihood of loss of life, serious injury or the widespread destruction of property.’
The continuous arrests and the use of judicial harassment against human rights defenders are unjustifiable and serve no other purpose than to instil fear and to promote reprisals against the movement. The arrested protesters and its leaders should be immediately and unconditionally released.
I likewise condemn the use of intimidation and reprisals against social media users who have ’checked-in’ at protests sites, taken selfies, or posted about the protests on social media. On 19 October 2020, the Minister of Digital Information announced that they would investigate more than 300,000 URLs of social media accounts that have allegedly violated the Emergency Decree.
I am also gravely concerned about efforts to have media organisations Prachatai, the Standard, The Reporters, and Voice TV investigated for their reporting of the protests, as well as efforts to prevent them from reporting these events. The role of journalism remains ever crucial in these times, and the government has an obligation to protect media freedom and independence. The right to access information is integral in the fulfilment of the people’s right to freedom of expression.
I recognise that these tactics are also being used by other governments in the region to stifle social movements. These tactics violate international human rights standards and have no role in any fair and just society.
I call on the Government of Thailand to commit to the respect and protection of freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. I urge the government to:
- Refrain from any further use or announcement of orders and policies including under the Emergency Decree to hinder people’s ability to exercise their fundamental rights;
- Immediately and unconditionally release all arrested Human Rights Defenders and protesters, drop all charges against them, and refrain from any further arrests, threats or intimidation;
- End the use of police violence against protesters;
- Respect the rights of children and youth to safely and peacefully express their opinions on issues that affect them;
- Review or repeal draconian offences under the Criminal Code such as defamation and sedition, which have been used as tools of fear and reprisal;
- Respect and support media independence and freedom, including through allowing local and international journalists to operate, without any interference or reprisals; and
- Take genuine steps to address the structural violations being raised by the democracy movement.
I call on the international community to stand in solidarity with Thailand’s democracy movement, and all our social movements in Asia in our pursuit of government accountability and the protection of human rights.
I thank you for your attention to the issues and recommendations raised in this letter.
William Nicholas Gomes
Human rights activist and Freelance Journalist
York, United Kingdom