Report on the situation of public assemblies and efforts to stifle public assemblies during 13-21 October 2020

26 October 2020

Amnesty International Thailand

1. Overall situation

On 14 October 2020, a massive public assembly by “Khana Ratsadon” took place coalescing around three demands including (1) the resignation of General Prayut Chan-ocha as Prime Minister, (2) the opening of a special parliamentary session to deliberate on the Draft Constitution prepared by the people, and (3) the reform the monarchy. One day prior, on 13 October, the police have forcibly dispersed a public assembly and arrested members of the “E-san Ratsadon” who were gathered at the Democracy Monument. On the morning of 14 October, around 8am, the demonstrators started to gather and then moved en masse around 2pm toward the Government House. The Khana Ratsadon’s public assembly was taking place while some members of the public and government officials clad in yellow shirts were lining up along the Ratchadamnoen Avenue where the royal motorcade of Their Majesties was supposed to pass by. They were there to greet His Majesty Rama X.

Prior to the march of the Khana Ratsadon’s demonstrators toward the Government House, two mishaps happened. Frist, at around 1pm, there was a clash at the Democracy Monument, in front of Sorn Daeng Restaurant, between the Yello Shirt supporters and the Khana Ratsadon demonstrators. A scuffle ensued as people were hurling water bottles against each other. The officials tried to contain the situation. Second, at around 5pm, on Phitsanulok Road in front of the Government House, as the royal motorcade was passing by, the Khana Ratsadon ‘s demonstrators who thronged the street section flashed three fingers and shouted demanding the release of the detained protesters. Ten of thousands of the demonstrators eventually managed to occupy the roads surrounding the Government House amid all night long rumour that the authorities were to crack down on the demonstration. Nevertheless, Anon Nampha, Khana Ratsadon’s leader, told the demonstrators to disperse on the morning of 15 October and tor regroup at Ratchaprasong Intersection the same afternoon.

Nevertheless, early morning on 15 October at 4am, the Prayut government issued the “Declaration of Severe State of Emergency in Bangkok” claiming among others that (1) factions of people have incited people to come to participate in illegal public assemblies to cause public disturbance and disorder, (2) an act of infringement against the royal motorcade has been committed, (3) the public assemblies may affect efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, and (4) any possible impact on national economic stability. The declaration of the Severe State of Emergency has led to the crowd control police’s forcible dispersal of the public assembly which began around 4.30am leading to the arrests of the protest leaders including Anon Nampha, Parit Chiwarak and Prasit Krutharoj. The crackdown on the demonstrators has, however, galvanized even more people to come to join the first leaderless public assembly at the Ratchaprasong Intersection. Then, there was another attempt to forcibly disperse a public assembly on Rama I Road under the Siam BTS station on 16 October.

The harsh tactics adopted by the police to disperse public assemblies has led to even bigger public assemblies which have spread to various places in Bangkok and the province while the number of participants has increased massively. The authorities continue to adopt scare tactics to harass, surveil, arrest and criminalize

participants in the public assemblies. Nevertheless, even though there was no sign of abatement of the public assemblies, on 22 October, General Prayut lifted the declaration of the severe state of emergency in Bangkok which took effect from 13-21 October 2020 while at least 76 public assemblies were taking place countrywide including 16 in Bangkok and 70 in the province with 90 people arrested and 84 charged.



2. Public assemblies: statistics, patterns and demands

From 13-21 October 2020, at least 76 public assemblies took place countrywide including at least 16 in Bangkok, 15 of which took place while the severe state of emergency was imposed, and at least 60 in the province, after the forcible dispersal of the public assembly by the police early morning on 15 October at the Government House in Bangkok. Public assemblies which took place after the Government House’s crackdown all shared a similar pattern with a lack of clear leaderships and a lack of organization (in terms of guards and sound system). The pivot point that galvanized more people to throng the street was the use of force to disperse the crowd on 16 October on Rama I Road under the Siam BTS station during which water canon was fired into the demonstrators. Until 17 October, at least 22 public assemblies took place nationwide. Just in Bangkok, the public assemblies have spread to at least four spots including the Lat Prao Intersection, Wong Wian Yai Roundabout, Bang Na Intersection, and Asoke BTS’s Skywalk. They were all unprecedented.

The massive public assembly by Khana Ratsadon on 14 October ostensibly coalesced around three demands including the resignation of General Prayut Chan-ocha, the opening of parliament for a debate, and the review of the Draft Constitution prepared by the people and the monarchical reform. After the arrests of protest leaders, additional demands have been made by the demonstrators including the unconditional release of the detained protesters. On 15 October 2020 during the public assembly at Chiang Mai University, the “Prachakhom Mor Chor Students” has proposed three demands to the Chiang Mai University including the university taking a stand with the students who have been arrested, the state stopping harassment against the people and the lifting of the declaration of the severe state of emergency and the release of their fellow activists.


3. Harassment and stifling technics

At least 76 public assemblies from 13-21 October 2020 continued to face harassment and stifling efforts even though the demonstrators were gathered peacefully and unarmed. Various technics used by the authorities to thwart public assemblies were apparently ineffective. And the efforts made to impose more restriction on the demonstrators has simply galvanized them to come out even more against the government. During the nine days, the authorities have adopted various technics to harass, stifle and impede public assemblies as follows;


3.1 Arrest and charges

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), from 13-21 October 2020, at least 90 protesters have been arrested and 84 charged. According to iLAW, the police attempt to stifle public assemblies and the

organizers and the participants by levying charges against them, summoning them, and applying for arrest warrants against them for both the current offences and the previous ones. Several protest leaders and demonstrators were also denied bail. In addition, at least two persons younger than 18 years were arrested, one of whom was released without charge, while another was charged and bailed out at the Juvenile and Family Court.

Charges used against the demonstrators include;

1. Penal Code’s Section 110, committing an act of violence against the Queen or Her liberty, the Heir-apparent or His liberty, or the Regent or his/her liberty, the act of which is punishable by an imprisonment for life or imprisonment of sixteen to twenty years.

2. Penal Code’s Section 116, ‘Sedition’ punishable by an imprisonment not more than seven years

3. Penal Code’s Section 215, illegal assembly of ten persons and upward, causing public disturbance, punishable by an imprisonment not more than six months, and a fine not more than 10,000 baht or both

4. Penal Code’s Section 358, mischief, punishable by an imprisonment not more than three years, and a fine not more than 60,000 baht

5. Penal Code’s Section 360, damaging, destroying, causing the depreciation of value or rendering useless the property used or possessed for public benefit, punishable by an imprisonment not more than five years, a fine not more than 100,000 baht or both

6. Penal Code’s Sectionฯ 368, refusing to comply with the official’s order, punishable by an imprisonment not more than ten days, a fine not more than 5,000 baht or both

7. Penal Code’s Section 385, obstructing the public way by placing or leaving thereon anything or by acting by any means up to it may interfere with the safety or convenience of traffic, punishable by a fine not more than 5,000 baht.

8. Penal Code’s Section 391, committing an act of violence not amounting to bodily or mental harm to the other person, punishable by an imprisonment not more one month, a fine not more than 10,000 baht or both

9. Violating the Emergency Decree prohibiting public assemblies, by doing activities or conduct an illegal assembly which help to spread the disease, punishable by an imprisonment not more than two years, a fine not more than 40,000 baht or both

10. The Communicable Diseases Act’s Section 34 (6), carrying out or performing any act which may cause unhygienic conditions that may result in the transmission of the dangerous communicable disease or epidemic, punishable by a fine not more than 20,000 baht

11. The Road Traffic Act’s Section 114, placing, setting up, extending, or hanging anything or acting anything whatsoever in the manner to obstruct traffic, punishable by a fine not more than 500 baht.

12. The Act on Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness’s Section 12, scraping, chipping, scratching, writing, spraying paint or making it appear by any means of any message, image or photo on the wall adjacent to the road, on the road, punishable by a fine not more than 5,000 baht.

13. The Act on Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness’s Section 19, placing, putting, or piling any object on the road, punishable by a fine not more than 10,000 baht.

14. The Public Assembly Act’s Section 10, failure to notify of public assemblies

15. The Computer Crime Act’s Section 14(3) inputting of information into a computer system which is an offence against national security


3.2 Public assembly dispersal

Three public assembly dispersals took place. First on 13 October, the dispersal of public assembly at the Democracy Monument, as the police used force to crack down on the demonstrators pulling them from the gathering and arresting 23 of them. Second on 15 October, the forcible dispersal of public assembly at the Government House. And third, on 16 October 2020, the clampdown on public assembly under the Siam BTS station during which the crowd control police armed with armors and truncheons, fired water cannon to disperse the crowd. They started from charging slowly toward the demonstrators and then gave them five minutes to voluntarily disperse. As the demonstrators failed to act in compliance, there was a clash with hundreds of police officials who charged down toward them in rows and fired water canon several times against them causing injuries as a result of the high pressure water. As the demonstrators retreated toward Pathumwan intersection, the police continued to fire at them with water laced with blue dye. According to eyewitnesses’ account, the water causes them irritation on their eyes and skins. The police’s act is considered the use of violence contrary to the police’s claim that they have always resort to “acts in compliance with international standards”.


3.3 Surveillance and harassment

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least three public assemblies took place outside Bangkok. On 18 October, the #SriSaKetPeopleGalvanizedByTheDictators, the #AmnajChareonCan’tBearWithDictators and the #SuphanCan’tBearWithItAnymore public assemblies took place, and the organizers and speakers at the events were all subject to harassment by the authorities. The officials called to ask for their personal information and even contacted people close to them and visited them at home. Intimidation has been made to prevent people from participating in the public assemblies.

For example, a 12th grader of Hua Taphan Wittayakhom School in Amnaj Charoen, who spoke at the #AmnajChareonCan’tBearWithDictators event was followed and harassed. Upon returning home, the mother and grandmother approached the student alarmingly told him in trembling voice that the Headman had told them that in the evening, the police had called and asked Village Headman to tell the family to tell him to not participate in the public assembly. Late that night, there was another phone call to the mother telling her the police in Bangkok threatened that orders had been sent to stop him from further attending public assemblies, otherwise, he would face a charge. They threatened that if the summonses is issued, the whole family have to report themselves to the police. And since he is not yet 20 years old, his parents will go to jail on his behalf and they will need to raise at least a million baht to post bail. And once in prison, he can be subject to physical abuse and will be made ineligible to enrol in university. Eventually, the man who made the phone call, asked the mother for a meeting at the Muang Amnaj Charoen Police Station at noon tomorrow. It has scared the mother much.

In another example, a 32-year-old-owner of a beauty salon in Suphan Buri recounts that on 19 October 2020, 4-5 plainclothes police officials came to the shop where her younger sister worked. Carrying with them a photocopy of her ID card, they asked if her sister had participated in the public assembly yesterday. Her sister insisted that she was not there. It was possible that the officials misidentified her sister for her since her sister wore short hair and shared resembling look with her. Then, the police went to a shop of her husband in a commercial building closer to her sister’s shop. They went inside to have a talk and again present a photocopy of her husband’s ID Card and asked if he had participated in the public assembly. As her husband admitted to having been there, the police said briefly that be careful to not attend such event again. At first, the officials asked to take a video during which her husband would have been asked for admit to having participated in the public assembly, but her husband refused to act in compliance with the order. Then, the officials left.


3.4 Restriction of movement

The public assemblies from 15-21 October 2020 have been organized with the use of social media for public announcement. In most cases, people were told to gather at BTS stations since it makes it convenient to promptly travel and move a large number of people from one place to another. Nevertheless, invoking the declaration of the severe state of emergency, the government has shut down several BTS stations to impede the public assemblies.


3.5 University setting up checkpoint, blocking entry of people from outside while police requesting no mention of the monarchy

On 18 October, a public assembly was organized inside the Udonthani Rajabhat University. But at the university’s entrance, a checkpoint was set up by police and administrative officials to prevent the entry of people from outside claiming it was pursuant to the instruction of Udonthani Rajabhat University. Only students and faculty members were let in. The students, however, decided to move to assemble at the Krom Luang Prachak Monument, less than 50 meters away from the university. The police requested that the organizers of the public assembly refrain from mentioning the monarchy in their public speech.