Amnesty International has criticized the Thai government’s use of the emergency decree to arrest, detain, and charge two men who were protesting with anti-government signs when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was visiting Rayong province on Wednesday, July 15th.
The protest was hastily organized following news that a group of Egyptian soldiers, one of whom tested positive for covid-19, were allowed to visit two shopping malls during a brief stay in Rayong province.
Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, visited the province on Wednesday to reassure local residents following the incident.
However, before the Prime Minister’s arrival, activists held signs with political messages near the DVaree Hotel, where the Egyptian group stayed. The activists also hung a sign near one of the shopping malls visited by the Egyptian soldier with an anti-government message.
Local police arrested two of the protesters before Gen Prayut arrived with one of the activists claiming on Facebook that police had used force when making the arrest.
Both men were charged with violating the emergency decree and the Communicable Disease Act. Other charges were also filed against the protesters, including trying to escape arrest and interfering with security.
On their Facebook page, Amnesty International Thailand has called for all charges to be dropped against both men, claiming their arrest and charges violate free speech. The international organization has previously criticized the emergency decree and the lack of freedom of expression under Prayut’s government.
Director of Amnesty International Thailand, Piyanuch Kotrasarn, said:
“Officials did not produce an arrest warrant while making the arrest and failed to immediately notify the victims of their charges. State officials must not prevent civilians from organizing peaceful protests or use unreasonable restrictions under the excuse of covid-19 prevention measures.”
She urged the government to drop all charges against the pair and to use the authority granted by the state of emergency to prevent the spread of covid-19 rather than using its power to limit human rights.