Three labour right activists have been charged with violation of the Public Assembly Act and the Sound Amplifier Act for the 1 May Labour Day march from the Ratchaprasong intersection to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC).
The three activists and their supporters at Pathumwan Police Station on Monday (15 March)
Chatchai Pumpuang and Prim Maneechot from the labour rights network Workers’ Union and Surat Kiri from the migrant worker group Bright Future reported to Pathumwan Police Station on Monday (15 March) after they were summoned to hear charges of holding a public assembly without notifying the authorities and using a sound amplifier without permission.
The three activists agreed that Surat will reach a settlement and pay a fine of 2,100 for the charges against him to be withdrawn. Meanwhile, Chatchai and Prim will fight their charges in court.
Chatchai said that he agreed to fight his charges because he hopes that the Public Assembly Act will not be used again the future and to protect the right of workers to march on Labour Day.
He also said that he was told by the police that “it’s good that this is all you get, not [Section] 112.”This made him feel that the royal defamation law is a problem for workers to organize and campaign for their rights.
Chatchai hopes that workers will start seeing why the royal defamation law is problematic and that politics and labour rights are related, since previously there have been arguments made that workers would gain nothing from amending the royal defamation law.
Migrant workers who joined the march have also been harassed by the police. Chatchai said that he was told by several migrant workers that they received calls from the police in Bangkok’s Bang Bon district, which made them feel insecure about their employment and immigration status.
He speculated that the workers were harassed after some media outlets reported that migrant workers were joining the Labour Day march and used nationalist rhetoric to incite a bias against migrants.
“These people really don’t know at all that they can have a comfortable life with everything smooth, and this comes from migrant workers who work and make it happen, like fishery workers, people in Bangkok have shrimp that’s not expensive to eat because of them,” Chatchai said.
“These people are mainly nationalists, but they’re not at all aware of the fact that these people [migrant workers] are the ones who built this city and built this country. The main pillars that they claim didn’t build Bangkok. But the people who built Bangkok are workers. Whatever our nationality, we made everything.”
Previously, the Labour Network for People’s Rights, the Migrant Working Group, and other labour rights organizations issued a joint statement condemning several right-wing media, including Top News and Thai Post, for reporting false information about the Labour Day march.
On 2 May, a programme broadcast on Top News’ YouTube channel claimed that migrant workers from Cambodia were giving speeches during a protest on the morning of 1 May at Government House calling for monarchy reform to create a welfare state. Show host Santisuk Marongsri then commented that migrant workers do not have the right to interfere in Thailand’s affairs and that they need to respect Thai people’s dignity.
Organizers of the protest said that no such speeches were given and that Cambodian workers joining the protest spoke about facing racism and discrimination for being migrants. Thai protesters from the 24 June Democracy group were standing behind them holding a banner saying “Reform the monarchy, build a welfare state,” but the content of the banner was not related to the content of the speech.