Thailand’s political temperature is rising in August 2021 as protesters have returned to the street to call for General Prayut Chan-o-cha to step down from his position due to the Prime Minister’s failure to manage the COVID-19 crisis, including the issues of vaccine administration, economic downturn, and intense rollout of new rules for restricting freedom of expression. Upon the renewed outbreak of the pandemic nationwide, the protest movement has sharpened its focus and adjusted its tactics by using the methods of “Car Mobs” and “Car Parks” to protect participants from contracting the virus. In this new phase of political demonstrations, a new battleground has emerged in the Din Daeng Intersection area, where daily clashes between protesters and the authorities occur.
In response, the police officers had publicly signaled their attempts to contain and suppress the protest movement before each protest activity, especially the rally on 7 August 2021, by preparing to file charges, harassing key leaders, and deploying security forces for crowd control. Meanwhile, the Riot Control police officers have increased the force used in dispersing demonstrations, marking a significant departure from the higher degree of tolerance demonstrated in previous rounds of protests. For example, the authorities have resorted to the indiscriminate shooting of rubber bullets, which injured journalists, children, youth, and non-protesters. Furthermore, throughout almost every night in August, the authorities have also launched a series of dragnet arrest operations that catch not only the protesters but also those who are not involved in the protests.
Authorities indiscriminately captured all protesters – the youngest person being a 13-year-old child arrested at Din Daeng for allegedly violating the Emergency Decree
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has compiled the statistics on the persons arrested / detained due to their alleged involvement in the aforementioned protest activities throughout August. It is found that from 1 to 25 August 2021, at least 260 persons have been arrested. This number includes at least 13 children younger than 15 years old, 57 youths within the age range from 15 to 18 years old, and 190 adults. However, it excludes the key protest leaders and activists who reported to the authorities per their arrest warrants.
Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Sirichai ‘New’ Natueng, and Phromsorn ‘Fah’ Weerathamjaree reported themselves to the authorities on 8 August 2021 for their charges linked to the #2August Rally. Thanapat ‘Poon’ Kapeng, Panupong ‘Mike’ Jadnok, Chatchai Kaedam, and Panadda “Tong Taluhfah” Sirimassakul reported themselves on 9 August 2021 for the charges linked to their speeches in the ‘Harry Potter 2’ Rally. Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa and Tawee Tiangwiset reported themselves on 9 August 2021 for allegedly splashing color on the Thung Song Hong Police Station. Lastly, “Poom” reported himself on 9 August 2021 for allegedly damaging the Royal Thai Police’s front sign.
The number of children and youths arrested has now amounted to 70, which accounts for 26.9 percent or more than a quarter of the total number of arrested persons. This data indicates that children and youths are among the most active groups that participated in the political demonstrations and among those most exposed to the arrest operations.
If we only count the continuous arrests in Din Daeng and its vicinities from 7 August 2021 onwards, at least 209 persons have been arrested. This number includes at least 13 children younger than 15 years old, 56 youths within the age range from 15 to 18 years old, and 140 adults.
TLHR observed that the arrest operations have been indiscriminate. The authorities did not only arrest the protesters but also arbitrarily captured people preparing to join the protest, drivers of loudspeaker cars or trucks carrying demonstration equipment, activists who already have arrest warrants from previous protest activities, and even Din Daeng flat residents returning home from work, going out of their homes to buy food, as well as ordinary citizens who needed to use the Din Daeng – Wipawadee route.
All the arrested persons had been detained and interrogated in different places, depending on the authorities’ order each day. The documented detention venues included the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Headquarters (BPP 1) in Pathum Thani Province, the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) inside the Royal Thai Police Club, and other police stations across Bangkok. The majority of detention was unlawful because the police officers often did not bring the arrested persons to a police station in the locality of where they were arrested or the station in charge of processing the arrested persons’ charges in line with the Criminal Procedure Code.
The main charge facing the protesters are alleged violations of the Regulation issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree, the Communicable Diseases Act, and Article 215 under the Criminal Code (Ban on illegal assemblies of ten or more people).
Adults and youths arrested in August were required to undergo each step of the “criminal justice procedure” beginning from the police stage, including the creation of an arrest record, notification of charges, testimony examination, as well as the processes of remand, arrest verification and detention authorization request (For youths), and bail application. While most arrested persons eventually received bail, their arrest and detention must be regarded as the restrictions of their freedom to participate in public assemblies and freedom of expression through the justice system. Moreover, these processes also created a financial burden for those ordered to pay a monetary surety to obtain bail.
>> Exploring each stage of youth cases: When youths face political charges with more burdens and a higher tendency of facing abuses than adults (Thai)
Table illustrating the overall situation of arrests in cases linked to political demonstrations in August 2021 (Information from 1 to 25 August 2021)
- The total number of protesters arrested due to political demonstrations in August 2021 reached 255, including 70 children and youths
*As of 25 August 2021
|Date||Adult||15-18 years old minors||Children younger than 15 years old||Total number||Note|
|1 August 2021||12||12||Members of the Nonthaburi New Generation Network and a group of loudspeaker car drivers affiliated with the Ratsadon Group|
|2 August 2021||33||1||34||– Protesters gathering in front of the Police Club and BPP 1. |
– At least four got injured.
|3 August 2021||5||5||Drivers of loudspeaker cars in the #HarryPotter2 Rally|
|7 August 2021||18||18||– WeVo Group members (Arrested before the rally)|
– Protesters gathering at the Democracy Movement
– Loudspeaker car drivers and Sam Samat
– Those charged for the protest in front of BPP 1 on 2 August
– The arrest of independent protesters near the Din Daeng Triangle begun. At least one person got injured.
|8 August 2021||1||1||Natchanon Pairoj was arrested in front of the Royal Thai Police while travelling to report himself to the authorities|
|9 August 2021||1||1||Those charged for allegedly splashing color paint on the Thung Song Hong Police Station|
|10 August 2021||33||13||2 (14 year-old)||48||– 11 persons were arrested outside the protest site.|
– 2 persons were charged with alleged possession of an explosive item
|11 August 2021||15||2||17||– At least 4 persons got injured|
– 13 persons got charged with allegedly harming the officers
|12 August 2021||2||2||Follow-up arrests of those charged with allegedly “burning a prison van” on 7 August|
|13 August 2021||7||7||– The Mok Luang Rim Nam Group got fined under the Cleanliness Act for allegedly making flowers fall from the tree. |
– One person was arrested for allegedly instigating the crowd to throw rocks at the officers on 7 August.
|15 August 2021||2||2||4||1 minor got injured|
|16 August 2021||8||5||13||1 minor got injured|
|17 August 2021||7||7||2 minors got injured|
|18 August 2021||6||3||9||– 2 persons charged for their involvement in the #18Aug Rally |
– 7 persons charged for illegal gathering without face masks.
|20 August 2021||8||12||7 (13 and 14-year-old)||27||10 persons got injured|
– 6 persons charged with alleged possession of an explosive item.
– 1 person got arrested for allegedly setting a police booth on fire on 10 August.
|21 August 2021||5||1||1 (14-year-old)||7||6 persons got injured|
|22 August 2021||23||17||2 (13 and 14-year-old)||6 persons got injured|
|23 August 2021||4||1 (13-year-old)||5||2 persons got injured|
|25 August 2021||1||1||2 persons charged with allegedly setting a police booth on fired on 1 August|