Amnesty International Thailand set up 41 mannequins at a Bangkok shrine on Thursday in a protest against what it said were politically motivated charges against children
Each of the child-sized mannequins in front of Mae Thorani Shrine in Phra Nakhon district carried a sign displaying the age and charges filed against a minor for taking part in pro-democracy protests.
“From our documentation and observation, at least 41 children under 18 years old have been charged in 37 cases for involvement in public assemblies and expressing their views,” Amnesty International (AI) Thailand’s director Piyanuch Khotsarn said.
“Of these, five individuals in six cases, including a 14-year-old child, are facing charges of lese majeste charge and other serious criminal offences.”
He added that this was the first time children had been charged with lese majeste (royal insult) under Article 112 of the Criminal Code.
AI Thailand said that in addition to the uptick in prosecutions against protesting youths, many had been arrested forcefully and denied their right of access to their parents, legal counsel and prompt medical care.
The rights group called on the government of Thailand, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to uphold the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly prescribed in the Constitution.
It said the government must halt politically motivated prosecution of children and youths for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Meanwhile, state authorities must stop using violence against children and youth at assembly sites and ensure that arrests are carried out in line with the law.
Children who have been illegally abused must have recourse to justice from authorities.
AI Thailand added that the state must urgently implement policies to protect the rights of children and youth to express their views and participate in peaceful assemblies.
It said training should be given to raise awareness of officers about the rights of children, including their right to participate in political affairs, right to be heard and right to participate in peaceful assemblies.