Human Rights Watch this morning condemned the arrests of seven pro-democracy campaigners and two anti-establishment rap artists by the police.
The arrests violate pledges made by the government to respect their rights at a time of swelling protests against its rule, the New York-based group said in a call for their immediate release.
“The Thai government’s repeated promises to listen to dissenting voices have proven meaningless as the crackdown on pro-democracy activists continues unabated,” said Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director. “The authorities should right their wrong and immediately drop the charges and release [Arnon Nampa] and other detained activists.”
The arrests were carried out last night and this morning.
Arnon, an attorney who’s led Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and was previously arrested after he broached the topic of royal reform, was reportedly taken into custody at the Bangkok Criminal Court, where he was tending to his clients. Between last night and this morning, he was arrested along with Baramee Chairat, Korakot Saengyenphan, Suwanna Tanlek, Todsaporn Sinsomboon, Thanee Sasom, Nathawut Somboonsup, Thanayuth Na Ayutthaya and Dechatorn Bamroongmuang.
Dechatorn has used the stage as a weapon against the regime ever since Rap Against Dictatorship released popular anti-government track What My F**king Country’s Got in 2018. He performed at Sunday’s mass rally at the Democracy Monument, which drew an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people, alongside Thanayuth, a teen rapper from Khlong Toei known as “ElevenFinger.”
All of those arrested were named in a recently leaked police list of 31 activists targeted for arrest.
Most are activists with the affiliated network of pro-democracy groups campaigning for the military-backed government to step down. Baramee is a member of the Assembly of the Poor, Suwanna a member of the June 24 for Democracy Movement, and Korakot belongs to the Democracy Restoration Group.
They face charges that include sedition and are being held at Bangkok’s Samranrat Police Station.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the powerful retired general who now leads the ruling political party, declined to comment about the arrests beyond saying the police were doing their duty.
“The police are doing their jobs, following the law,” he told reporters at around noon today. “If the law isn’t enforced, how can we live? It’s up to the police.”
“I don’t know” was Prawit’s only comment on whether his government should provide a forum for youth protesters to express their opinions to stave off future conflict. He said he was not concerned about high schoolers nationwide throwing in their support by campaigning against the regime.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who has led since seizing power in 2014 and is nominally Prawit’s boss, said last week that protesters’ right to expression would be respected if they stayed within the law. Still, taboo-shattering calls to reform the monarchy have won dire warnings from the apex of Thailand’s power structure, including its commander-in-chief, Gen. Apirat Kongsompong.
This article, Arrests of 9 Thai activists, rappers on ‘wanted list’ condemned, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!