157 public events disrupted by junta since 2014 coup d’état

In the three years since the 2014 coup d’état, the regime has disrupted 157 public events, most for being politically sensitive.

According to iLaw, a human rights advocacy group, from the day of the military coup d’état on 22 May 2014 until 10 July 2017, the junta has disrupted at least 157 public events.

The authorities intervened in 39 events in 2014 and 66 in 2015. As the coup-makers became more confident in their tight grip on power, 37 events were disrupted in 2016 and 13 in the first half of 2017.

Most of the disrupted events were deemed politically sensitive by the regime, especially public forums or gatherings with titles containing words like ‘dictatorship’ and ‘treason’.     

Intervention measures ranged from monitoring, pressuring organisers to cancel, or arresting participants.

Security officers dispatched by the regime to disrupt events usually cited the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Head’s Order No. 3/2015, the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons, and the Public Assembly Act to force cancellation of events.

The level of harassment heightened during the months prior to the public referendum on the Constitution on 7 August 2016. Many pro-democracy activists and members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the main anti-establishment red-shirt faction, were charged with violating the junta’s Order and also the controversial Referendum Act, which prevented people from criticising the draft 2017 constitution.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, at least 242 people have been accused of allegedly violating the junta’s ban on political gatherings, while 212 people have been charged under the Referendum Act.

In some cases, the authorities used multiple laws and orders to intervene and arrest participants. One example of this is the arrest of three activists who led an overnight protest in front of Government House in February against the regime’s plan to build a coal power plant in the south. The authorities used their absolute power under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution to detain the three at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok.

In one case, the authorities charged student activists from the Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD) with violation of the Public Cleanliness Act for laying a wreath on 25 October 2014 at a bridge to commemorate the suicide of Nuamthong Praiwan, a taxi driver who hanged himself at the bridge to protest against the 2006 military coup.

Military officers detaining leading activist Sirawit Serithiwat on 7 December 2015 while he and other activists were on their way to Rakabhakti Park, a royal theme park plagued with corruption scandals (file photo)