Harare, 21 October 2020:
Thailand is erupting in protests. News of brutal crackdown, detention, media censorship and arrests of students and activists continue to make daily headlines in the region. The people who are leading this pro-democracy protests, despite the threats, intimidation and violence unleashed upon them by the authorities, are determined to go ahead.
On several occasions, students have gathered at university buildings, public spaces and in front of the army headquarters, calling for military reforms and an end to the current administration, led by the Army chief-turned Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha. The roots of the present discontentment go back to the 2014 coup which brought Mr Prayuth to power. The country held the delayed Parliamentary election last year, but Mr Prayuth retained power after the disputed election.
The student-led protesters want the military-backed government to step down, the Constitution to be rewritten to make it more democratic. They are also calling for a monarchical reform to get the monarchy conformed to democratic norms. Various proposals to amend the Constitution have been submitted to the Thai parliament. Still, these have been delayed by royalist factions and the military-dominated Senate, further fueling the turmoil on the streets.
Over the last several weeks, activists and peasant leaders, including Baramee Chaiyarat of the Assembly of the Poor had been arrested. While the authorities released Baramee bowing to public pressure, the brutal crackdown on students and other activists continue. Several news outlets that are critical of the government’s handling of the situation have been targeted.
The Severe Emergency Decree*, issued in the early morning of 15 October, gives the State unchecked power over its citizens and has led to allegations of gross human rights violations, intimidation and significantly affecting students and young children. On the evening of the 15th, the government decided to violently disperse the peaceful protesters. The armed forces used water cannon mixed with toxic chemical fluid on the protesters. Many young students and youth were hurt. Approximately eighty youth leaders and political activists are arrested and prosecuted.
La Via Campesina wants to extend its solidarity to the people of Thailand and support the struggle of social movements in the country.
We stand solidly behind the Assembly of The Poor (AOP), a La Via Campesina member organisation in the country and with a rich tradition of fighting for people’s food sovereignty and autonomy.
We condemn the arrests, intimidation and violence unleashed upon peaceful activists, including the General Secretary of the Assembly of the Poor, Baramee Chaiyarat.
As a global movement representing over 200 million peasants and indigenous peoples in 81 countries, La Via Campesina is echoing the demands of Assembly of Poor and the civil society in Thailand and is calling to end the violent repression against a peaceful people, immediately. We call upon our allies around the world to issue solidarity and support to Assembly of the Poor in this challenging time, and make visible our collective strength and resolve for social justice.
*At the time of publishing the statement, the Emergency Decree has been revoked, but the crackdown and censorship continue.