By Prasit Tangprasert
The People Go Network yesterday handed a petition to the Nakhon Ratchasima provincial Governor to request that the province respect their freedom of expression and right to stage peaceful protest on the “We Walk” march to Khon Kaen.
The formal request was made after a temple that had granted them accommodation was alleged to have been threatened by high-ranking officers.
Activists from various organisations have banded together to march from Thammasart University in Pathum Thani to Khon Kaen to campaign for basic human rights, food security, universal healthcare and democracy.
They say they have faced blockades, interference, intimidation and a lawsuit from officers since the march started on January 20.
Akekachai Issaratha, a prominent member of the march, said the group had petitioned Nakhon Ratchasima’s provincial Governor, asking that he order local authorities to ensure they could continue uninhindered.
The appeal was necessary since the marchers still faced indirect intimidation even after the Administrative Court’s ruling on January 26 that participants had the right to stage a peaceful march. The court also ordered police to ensure the safety of participants through to its completion, which is set for March 17.
“Recently, we found that the abbot of the temple in Non Sung District, which offered us three nights’ stay, was pressured by a high-ranking district officer, who forced the abbot to allow the activists to stay for only one night, so we have to come and ask the provincial governor about this issue,” Akekachai said.
“We would also like to have an assurance that the local authorities in Nakhon Ratchasima will facilitate the marchers until they reach Khon Kaen, as we exercise our rights to stage peaceful protest and follow the law.”
Nakhon Ratchasima deputy governor Marutatee Rakchartchareon met the activists, received the petition and gave assurances that the province had already ordered local authorities to protect the marchers in every respect on their way to Khon Kaen.
Marutatee assured them there was no order from the province to interfere with the march and said officers would investigate the issue involving the temple.
However, he expressed concern for the safety of the activists, saying that because they were walkin in a group on the side of the road, they faced the risk of being involved in a road accident, he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said while visiting Trat yesterday that he would solve people’s problems, so they should not join the We Walk march.