SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: October 16, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances


Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Thailand

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 16, 2020, police deployed water cannons against students and civilians during a series of nationwide student protests.

Starting on July 18, 2020, students and other young people organized nationwide protests throughout Thailand, demanding democratic reforms including the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet, the drafting of a new constitution based on the will of the people, and ending repression of dissidents. The protests have been largely peaceful; however, police have reportedly arrested a growing number of students for their participation in them. Those arrested include student leaders Jutatip Sirikhan (see report), Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak (see report), and Panupong Jadnok (see report).

On October 16, roughly 2,000 students and members of civil society held a nonviolent protest at the Pathumwan intersection, a Bangkok landmark. Police reportedly used water cannons to disperse the protesters. The water reportedly contained a blue dye, intended to mark protesters so that officers could more easily identify them for arrest. Protesters reported that the blue dye irritated their skin and eyes. According to police, at least three protesters and five officers were injured.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force against students in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting student-led protest activity, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent force intended to restrict student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.