Arrests will fuel dissent

Arrests will fuel dissent

With the arrests of more activists in connection with their role in the July 18 rally at Democracy Monument, which was organised by the Free Youth group, the country is inching once again toward political strife.

Held in police custody are Dechathorn "Hockhacker" Bamrungmuang, a founder and member of the well-known hip-hop group Rap Against Dictatorship; Baramee Chairat, secretary-general of the Assembly of the Poor; Thanayut "Book" Na Ayudhya, a 19-year-old rapper; activists Nattawut Somboonsap, Korakot Saengyenpan, Suwanna Tarnlekm and Tossaporn Sinsomboon; and human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa.

This was the second time Mr Arnon has been detained. Previously, he was released on bail on the condition he would not repeat the same offences that saw him locked up in the first place. As of press time last night, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) was attempting to bail out those who had been remanded in custody.

All of them, including Panupong Chadnok and Parit Chivarak -- two young activists previously nabbed and released on bail -- are believed to be facing legal action because they made an address or performed music during the rally, a major political event after the government eased lockdown measures.

However, the severe charges faced by the activists -- sedition under sections 116 and 215 of the Penal Code, illegal gathering aimed at using violence and breach of the emergency decree -- will only intensify dissent.

By all means, the July 18 rally was a peaceful demonstration. Arresting these people for their pro-democracy activities raises the question of whether the crackdown was against the principles of free speech endorsed by the kingdom's constitution.

More importantly, police who are handling their cases must tread carefully. Since it's apparent those arrested have no intention of escaping the law, any harsh action will cause unnecessary anguish.

The arrest of Dechathorn, who was with his wife and their young daughter at the time, was a blatant outrage by police officers because they seemingly knew the family's daily schedule very well.

The rapper was arrested in front of his daughter, which was excessive and deserves condemnation from the public.

Another important factor to highlight is that the Prayut Chan-o-cha government should not forget that it is part of the problem for plunging the country into this crisis with an even deeper divide.

Gen Prayut has failed to keep the promise that the military regime would not stay on in power. The prime minister has also failed to deliver on reforming the police, an agency involved in a series of scandals.

On top of all of that, the military-sponsored charter, with several undemocratic clauses, is a major source of conflicts. Poor performances by a few "independent" agencies have severely eroded public confidence and trust.

The prime minister should look into the matter and order the police to reconsider the severe charges faced by the activists and ensure there is no abuse of state power in handling their cases.

The government and the authorities must learn the hard fact that the country's crisis cannot be solved through legal means alone.

If they want to achieve reconciliation, they must look to political means, set up a dialogue, and show sincerity in charter amendment, which should be carried out swiftly. Lip service will only deepen the crisis.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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