By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
ACTIVISTS demanding the right to protest appealed to the United Nations for help after land rights campaigners faced intimidation from the military yesterday to prevent them from joining peaceful demonstrations in Bangkok.
It was reported that at least three prominent members of the rights movement People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) Prayong Doklamyai, Sukaew Fungfu, and Rangsan Saensongkwae – were arrested on charges of violating the Public Gathering Act and causing public disorder in Lamphun province but later released.
At about 3.40pm yesterday, a minor confrontation took place as dozens of police, soldiers and administrative officials turned up to arrest Prayong, Sukaew and Rangsan.
These activists were among the crowds of demonstrators.
There was some pushing and shoving, as demonstrators tried to prevent officials from dragging their leaders away.
Soldiers said these men had violated a junta order, which bans actions that may undermine public order or economic systems, and the Public Assembly Act.
Finally, officials managed to push the three men into a police vehicle that quickly sped away.
Officials also tore down demonstrators’ banners.
More than 100 members of P-Move in the northern region were stopped on Tuesday night during their journey to join the protest in Bangkok.
P-Move members from Lamphun were detained at the police checkpoint in Mae Tha district, while another group of P-Move activists from Chiang Mai were summoned to Kawila Military Base for questioning and then forced to remain at home.
All of them intended to attend the prolonged protest in Bangkok alongside land rights activists from across the country to push for long-delayed solutions to land rights issues, disparity in society, and unjust governmental policies, which resulted in greater difficulties and rights violation of poor people across the country.
Prayong told The Nation yesterday afternoon, “The military tried to stop the people from joining the protest in Bangkok on the pretext of keeping public order, so they summoned all P-Move protesters from Chiang Mai to Kawila Military Base and asked them to give a signed assurance that that they would not participate in the protest,” Prayong said. “Then, the Army offered Bt20,000 to the protesters as compensation for their travel expenses to Bangkok and the soldiers escorted all of them back to their residences to ensure they would not take part in the protest.”
However, he revealed that P-Move members from Chiang Mai and Lamphun would not give up their efforts and would discuss their next move.
The Farmers Union of the northern region and P-Move have issued a statement condemning the military and authorities’ intervention preventing them from exercising their right to peacefully demonstrate, as this right is guaranteed by the Constitution. The statement said the authorities also have the obligation to facilitate and provide security for the public gathering.
The groups asked Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to stop all intimidation of the protesters and urged the National Human Rights Commission and UN to send representatives to monitor the protest so that their rights would be protected.
P-Move representatives also went to the UN office in Bangkok to submit a petition and urged them to reach out to Thai authorities and related agencies to ensure freedom of expression and better protection for every human rights defender.
In the letter to UN Resident Coordinator Luc Stevens, the group asked the UN to help them on two issues: working with Thai authorities to facilitate the social movement of P-Move, and cooperating with Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to come out with better protection measures for human rights defenders.
UN Human Rights Asia expressed concern yesterday with regard to the restrictions imposed on civil society groups on Labour Day in the country.
“As party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Royal Thai Government must ensure that these rights are fully respected, ” said Cynthia Veliko, OHCHR Southeast Asia regional representative today.