Activists, journalists face police surveillance

A number of activists and journalists have reported being visited by police officers during the past week, with the officers often questioning their family members for information about them and their activities. 

Plainclothes officers visiting a student activist's house in Chonburi during the evening of 14 January 2022. (Picutre from TLHR)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that at least 9 student activists in Chonburi were visited at home by police officers ahead of Burapha University’s graduation ceremony on 19 – 20 January 2022. The activists are members of the student activist group Kong Kang, which is active in the Chonburi area, but several have already graduated and are no longer active members of the group.

Doi (pseudonym), who graduated from Burapha University two years ago, told TLHR that his mother received a phone call from the assistant village head on 12 January 2022 and was told that 3 plainclothes officers had come looking for him. The officers told the assistant village head that they were from Chonburi, but the village is outside the province. They also said that they wanted to check on Doi and asked the assistant village chief where he was working and whether he is still involved in activism.

Doi’s family also found that the lock on their gates seemed to have been moved, and were not sure whether the officers tried to open the gates while no one was home. They also were not contacted by the police after the visit.

Doi told TLHR that he joined Kong Kang’s activities in late 2018, when the activists were calling for a general election, but did not join any activity after he graduated. He said that his family warned him after the visit, since they do not know what he was doing and was concerned that his job would be affected. He is also concerned that state officials know where he is, and he does not know what they want and what they will do next.

Ice (pseudonym), a third year student at Burapha University and current member of Kong Kang group, also told TLHR said 4 plainclothes officers came to see him at home during the evening of 14 January 2022.

The officers spoke to Ice and his father, and asked them about the Kong Kang group’s activities and whether the group planned to carry out any activity during the graduation ceremony, but did not explicitly tell Ice that they are not allowed to do so. The officers also took photos of Ice and his father standing with 3 of the officers.

Ice said that this is the first time he had been visited at home, and said that he was angry at the officers’ action as he felt he was being intimidated. He also felt unsafe as the officers made it seem like they know his personal information and where he was staying.

The Kong Kang group posted on Facebook that a total of 9 members had undergone police surveillance between 10 -15 January 2022. Several members received phone calls from Internal Security Operations officers and investigation officers asking for personal information and if they would be doing anything during the graduation ceremony.

TLHR said today (19 January 2022) that police officers went to another student’s house and asked about her. The student said that she was told by her father that a truck came driving past their house around 2 – 3 times. 3 officers who said they were from Police Investigation Bureau Division 2 then left the truck and spoke to her father. They asked whether she was home, about her political attitude, and told her father they were concerned that she would take part in a demonstration during the graduation ceremony.

The student also said that, on 15 January 2022, she saw a vehicle with dark windows parked in front of her dorm, and that the same vehicle followed her when she went out to eat and go to a convenience store.

Other activists and journalists also reported facing police surveillance between 10 – 15 January 2022. “Admin Ninja,” a citizen journalist from the Facebook page Live Real, said that on 15 January 2022, police officers came asking for him at his residence, which is not his address according to the household register, but is the address he gave to the police when he was arrested while live streaming a protest at the Din Daeng Intersection on 6 October 2021.

Suramet Noyubon, a citizen journalist from the Facebook page Friends Talk, said that a group of people claiming to be inquiry officers from Thung Song Hong Police Station went to his parents’ house and claimed that he was involved with Thalugaz, a group of protesters who staged nightly protests at the Din Daeng Intersection. They also did not present a police ID card or a warrant.

Suramet said that he was not involved with the Din Daeng protests, but was only live broadcasting them. On Monday (17 January 2022), Suramet and Nonthaburi New Generation Network activist Jetsada Sripleng went to Thung Song Hong Police Station, as they were both visited by men claiming to be from the Station.

Suramet said that the Thung Song Hong police superintendent apologized and told them that the men were indeed from Thung Song Hong Police Station, but that they misunderstood their superiors’ order, leading to the incident. Suramet also said that he asked the superintendent to make sure that every officer follows the proper protocol, especially presenting their police ID card before any operation.

Meanwhile, Voice TV talk show host Sirote Klampaiboon said that police officers came to his house on 15 January 2022, the second time he has been visited by the police. 2 plainclothes officers went to his house in Dusit district, Bangkok, and asked for him, claiming that they were ordered to observe his house once a month. Sirote was not home at the time. His family members told the officers that he was not home, so the officers asked to take a picture of them before leaving.

Sirote said that there are around 20 other people in Dusit district, including 2 Thammasat University lecturers, who are on the police’s watchlist. He also said that the visit frightened his 90-year-old mother and that if the authorities have problems with him, they should speak to him directly, as many people in the government already have his phone number.

iLaw also reported that plainclothes police officers visited the family home of a member of the activist group Thalufah at least 3 times between 13 – 15 January 2022. While the activist is on the household register for that address, they do not currently live there and only their family members are staying at the address. They also recorded the officers’ visits on the house’s CCTV cameras.

On 13 January 2022, a man named Nattakorn Chusano said that police officers came to his condominium around 2 – 3 times and were asking around for him and whether he has been to protests recently. The officers also threatened to charge him if he joins another protest.

Another activist named Tawan (last name withheld) also saw a truck likely to have been a police truck driving past their house on 14 January 2022, and said that they saw the truck slowed down to look inside the house.

iLaw noted that state officials have no legal right to follow or visit the residence of citizens who have not committed a crime, or to go inside their residence to speak to anyone who is there and ask for information without cause for suspicion that the person has committed a crime. 

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