Hundreds of Thai children facing charges over protests: Amnesty

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More than 200 children in Thailand are facing serious criminal charges, including sedition, for their role in largely peaceful pro-democracy protests that shook the kingdom in 2020, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

Youth-led demonstrations calling for political change and reform to Thailand’s untouchable monarchy drew tens of thousands onto the streets of Bangkok at their peak in late 2020.

Amnesty accused the Thai authorities of having “arrested, prosecuted, surveilled and intimidated” child protesters for taking part, in a report calling for charges to be dropped against under-18s.

“Children with their whole lives ahead of them now face severe repercussions merely for participating in peaceful protests,” Amnesty International Thailand researcher Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong said.

Nearly 300 under-18s have faced criminal charges related to the protests, the human rights campaign group said, and more than 200 cases are still active.

Most were accused of violating rules around public gatherings imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But at least 17 minors are facing accusations of insulting the monarchy, which can carry long prison terms.

Under the kingdom’s lese-majeste laws -- among the harshest in the world -- insulting the monarchy can carry a jail sentence of up to 15 years per charge.

The youngest child arrested during a protest was 11 years old, the report said, while in another case police reportedly used cable ties to restrain a 12-year-old in July 2021.

Minors told researchers that as well as following them, authorities had also put pressure on their teachers and parents to discourage them from participating in protests.

“In addition to charges, some child protesters risk facing the added penalty of being disowned or abused by their own parents, due to the pressure put on them by authorities,” Chanatip said.

In some cases this led to family arguments and even physical abuse and homelessness, the report said.

Amnesty urged the Thai authorities to drop charges against peaceful child protesters, saying they should be free to protest without it holding them back.

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