Amnesty bill campaign volunteers visited by police

Several volunteers collecting signatures for a campaign to introduce an amnesty bill for pro-democracy activists and protesters reported being harassed by police officers over the 14-day campaign, said Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

TLHR reported on Thursday (15 February) that an indigenous Karen man in Tak’s Tha Song Yang district said he was visited by 4 plainclothes Special Branch Police officers after running a signature collection spot for the amnesty bill campaign at his house for 4-5 days.

The police officers told him they were ordered by Tak provincial police to gather information. One officer took pictures of him, while others questioned him on how he came to volunteer for the campaign, who the campaign’s leaders are, how many people has signed the petition, and who they were. The police did not ask to see the signatures. The man reportedly sent the signatures to the Network for People’s Amnesty before they visited since the campaign had closed.

The man said he volunteered for the campaign after joining a law workshop with a local indigenous community network earlier in February. The police reportedly visited him a few times before because he joined protests organised by the People Movement for a Just Society. He said he is not worried about the surveillance because people have the right to introduce laws to parliament and he has not done anything wrong.

Volunteers in other provinces have also reported visits from police officers. In Phitsanulok, a man named Natthaphon told TLHR that, on 7 February, 3 plainclothes officers visited his house, where he had set up a table to collect signatures for the campaign. He was not home at the time. His 17-year-old daughter saw the officers outside the house and opened the door for them because she thought they were there to sign the petition.

The officers then presented their police IDs and asked the girl if her father was home, telling her not to panic as they regularly visited him. They took a picture of her standing in front of the house before leaving. The girl then sent a message to Natthaphon informing him of the visit.

Natthaphon expressed concern for his daughter’s safety, adding that the police had no need to take a picture of her. As the police have his phone number and address, he said the officers should have asked his daughter when he would be home and come back later.

Natthaphon stated that other signatures collection spots in Phitsanulok city received similar visits. Police reportedly only took pictures of the locations, however.

At a walking street in Chonburi’s Bowin subdistrict, uniformed police officers visited a signature collection spot organised by a local labour rights network on 9 February. They crowded around the signature collection table, taking pictures and causing safety concerns.

Meanwhile, in Phattalung, a local bookshop owner had to cancel a 7 February screening of Away, a documentary about the late writer and activist Wat Wanlayangkool’s life in exile, which was planned as part of an event that included a panel discussion and poetry reading, after a plainclothes officer came to observe the event.

Afterwards, the owner was visited by police officers, who asked him not to organise any more gatherings, making him wonder whether he no longer has the right to organise public activities.

Launched by the Network for People’s Amnesty, a network of 23 civil society organisations, the campaign aims to introduce to parliament a bill granting amnesty to pro-democracy activists and protesters. When the campaign closed on 14 February, it had 35,905 signatures, over three times the number required by law.

If passed, the bill will grant amnesty to those facing charges for participating in political protests from 19 September 2006 to the date on which the law comes into effect. However, charges filed against state officials involved in protest crackdown operations will not be dropped to make sure that they will not be given impunity for inappropriate actions and the use of excessive force.

Under the bill, those facing charges under NCPO orders, regulations issued under the Emergency Decree, the 2016 Constitutional Referendum Act, the royal defamation law, and other charges related to participating in protests will automatically be granted amnesty.

Cases involving people who did not directly participate in protests but were charged for inciting resistance to the state or state operations though protest, or other forms of expression that posed a potential danger the life, liberty, property, or reputation of another person will be considered by an amnesty committee before charges against them can be dropped.

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