Monday, October 26, 2020

Amnesty berates escalation of tensions by use of water cannons against protesters

Oct 17. 2020
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By The Nation

Amnesty International has hit out at the "excessive force" used by the authorities to disperse peaceful pro-democracy protests on Friday.

Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, called the actions "unwarranted and in no way complied with the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality, as the Thai authorities claim".

Responding to the dispersal of protesters by Thai police using water cannons with irritants and dye, Ming said: “The use of water cannons and irritants not only poses serious risk of injury, the use of dye is indiscriminate and could lead to the arbitrary targeting and arrest of peaceful protesters, journalists, or simply local residents who were marked with the colouring.

“In policing assemblies, Thai authorities should respect, protect and ensure the exercise of the human rights of organisers and participants. They must also ensure the safety and security of journalists, observers, and other members of the public observing the protests.

“We urge the Thai authorities to comply with their international obligations and facilitate the right to peaceful assembly. They must let peaceful protesters express their views – not exacerbate tensions further.”

Ahead of demonstrations expected at the Ratchaprasong junction at 5pm on Saturday, following the gathering of an estimated 10,000 people at the same location the previous day, police closed roads and erected barricades with multiple rows of barbed wire in order to prevent people assembling at the central Bangkok intersection.

Protesters then announced another rallying point further down the same road instead, at the Pathumwan junction. Later in the evening, police repeatedly used water cannons in attempts to disperse the crowd, estimated to be in the thousands.

According to a police spokesman, seven protesters were arrested and taken into custody. The spokesman confirmed that the water contained irritants and blue dye “to mark protesters for further legal action”.

Kitti Pantapak, a journalist with Prachathai was arrested, his equipment confiscated and is currently detained, according to a statement from Prachathai.

On Thurday, the Thai authorities ordered a 30-day ban on the gathering of five or more people in Bangkok, under emergency measures to stop escalating protests. The order also bans the publication of news or online messages that “could create fear”, affect national security or damage public morale.

Amnesty International called the order "drastic" and reiterated its call on the authorities to release peaceful protesters and lift arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

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