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Students petition UN rights body over ‘harassment’

Apr 11. 2018
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A GROUP of student activists yesterday filed a petition at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over what they said was harassment they faced from the police and military after taking part in rights promotion activities.

Parit Chiwarak, Thanawat Wongchai and Wiranpat Rodkaew went to the OHCHR office in Bangkok to file the petition framed by a student network of 10 universities and institutes.

The petition came after the three Chulalongkorn University students, including Wiranpat, on Monday held up a sign saying “Chula loves Uncle Tu [the dictator]” when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was speaking to reporters in front of Siam Square One building before making a speech at the university. Lung Tu, or uncle Tu, is Prayut’s nickname. The sign was torn in the scuffle with security.

The students claimed the officers tracked them after the incident.

The OHCHR did not give comment after the meeting, but Parit, a political science student from Thammasat University, said the UN body had agreed to continue urging the Thai junta over alleged infringements of human rights.

The OHCHR also expressed concerns about suspected eavesdropping by the Thai authorities over communication devices, especially targeting those considered dissidents by the junta, Parit said.

Thanawat, an economics second-year student from Chulalongkorn University, said that some officers had attempted to track him through his faculty, trying to obtain his address and information.

“Luckily, my faculty didn’t contact them back,” said Thanawat, who also serves as a deputy on the university’s student council and has joined noted student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal in activities that challenged the junta.

Wiranpat, a politics student at Chulalongkorn, said two police officers came to her house and talked to her mother on Tuesday, a day after she raised a banner mocking PM Prayut who lectured at her university.

Wiranpat said officers had asked her mother about her activism and whether she was being backed by any political party or paid by anyone.

Her mother insisted she did everything of her own free will and that she was interested in politics, Wiranpat said.

It was unclear how the officers had obtained her personal information and address, she said.

So far, after her activism against Prayut, Wiranpat said she had not been pressured by the university. Some democratic activists claim that the institution’s executives back the junta.

“Some may view our actions as betraying our country. They may question why we are bothered to report this,” said Parit, a prominent student activist who was visited by the authorities late last month.

“But the country belongs to all of us. We’re doing everything to enable everyone in this country to live with rights, freedom and dignity.”

Government Spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday that Prayut was not bothered about the protest. Officers, meanwhile, were just performing their duty, not harassing the students.

“They didn’t use weapons or ride on a tank. How do you think they should approach the students? Or do you think we have to send the PM to talk to them? ” Sansern said.


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