Thai authorities should drop charges against protesting children after they took part in mass demonstrations between 2020 and 2022, Amnesty International said today ahead of World Children’s Day on November 20.
Amnesty International has closely monitored and documented the effects of years of crackdowns on protesting children, which have included intimidation, surveillance and criminalization of their activities.
The organization has recorded instances where Thai police and other government officials have followed and monitored dozens of child protesters, pressured their family members and school authorities to prevent them from taking part in protests, and directly threatened to press charges against them and their parents .
“Many of the people who took part in these unprecedented mass demonstrations from 2020 onwards were children at the time who felt the need to speak out on issues affecting their future,” said Katherine Gerson, Thailand activist for Amnesty International.
“Thai authorities must use International Children’s Day to create a safe and conducive environment for freedom of expression and peaceful gatherings. We urge the authorities to allow these young people to get on with their lives without unjustified legal cases hanging over them and affecting their economic, educational and professional opportunities.”
We urge the authorities to allow these young people to get on with their lives without unjustified legal cases hanging over them and affecting their economic, educational and professional opportunities.
Katherine Gerson, Thailand activist with Amnesty International
Since 2020, an estimated 283 protesters under the age of 18 have been charged with a range of offences, most under an emergency decree law enacted during the pandemic that has since been repealed. Others face charges of royal defamation, sedition and disseminating information the authorities believe is “false”. Almost 200 of those cases are still active.
“People have been accused of violating a pandemic-related emergency regulation that no longer exists. That’s nonsensical. Thai authorities should immediately drop all charges and refrain from prosecuting anyone, including children, for violating this defunct law,” Gerson said.
On November 22, the Nonthaburi Provincial Juvenile and Family Court will announce its verdict in the first royal defamation case involving a protesting child named Thanakorn “Petch” Phiraban, an LGBTI+ activist convicted of peacefully participating in a protest on November 10 September 2020 when she was 17 years old. If he does, Petch faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
“As recent reports suggest in the run-up to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit being held in Bangkok, groups of children are still taking to the streets to express themselves peacefully, despite the potential risks involved in exercising their human rights. Thai authorities must refrain from violating the right to protest and take steps to actively enable children to exercise this right to the full.”
In 2020, tens of thousands of youth took to the streets in mass protests against the military-dominated government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Peaceful “flash mob” demonstrations began at universities and high schools across the country.
The protest movement quickly spread across social media platforms, most notably Twitter, where protesters coordinated gatherings organically via hashtags. An overwhelming number of participants at the start of the protests were secondary school students under the age of 18.
In all, more than 1,800 people have been charged with taking part in the protests and speaking out, most of them under the Emergency Decree Law, which was repealed in October 2022.
Amnesty International is currently running the global Protect the Protest campaign to ensure people around the world can peacefully demand change without persecution.
Amnesty International is a global human rights movement independent of governments, political ideologies or commercial interests. Raising concerns about human rights violations to any person or organization representing a particular political position does not imply Amnesty International’s support of that person’s or organization’s platform.