On August 14, 2020, police arrested Thammasat University student activist Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak in apparent retaliation for his participation in and co-organization of nationwide youth-led protests.
Most notable among these protests was a July 18 “Free Youth” Rally, which took place in Bangkok and was attended by more than a thousand protestors, who peacefully demanded: dissolution of the House, a revision of the constitution, and the elimination of harassment of government critics. Parit was involved in at least two other protests, on June 5 and 24.
On August 14, Thai police arrested Parit as he was preparing to join an anti-government protest in Nonthaburi. He was charged with sedition, assembly with intention to cause violence, violating a ban on public gatherings, and other offenses, in connection with the July 18 rally. In connection with the June 5 and 24 rallies, he was reportedly charged with violating Thailand’s Covid-19-related prohibition on public gatherings, as well as traffic- and public cleanliness-related offenses. Parit was detained at Samran Rat Police Station in Bangkok, and released the following day.
Parit’s arrest occurs within the backdrop of major protests led by students, calling for the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power through a 2014 military coup, as well as constitutional reforms and the cessation of harassment of activists.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of a student in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting expressive activity, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detentions intended to restrict nonviolent expressive activity undermines academic freedom, and democratic society generally.