Target: Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand
Goal: Release detainees who were arrested for posting their views on Facebook.
More than 12 people have been arrested and detained in Thailand for using Facebook to comment on a new and divisive constitution proposed by their government. The move is being viewed by human rights groups as the latest attempt by Thailand’s military government to crack down on political dissent.
According to Amnesty International, “the Facebook users who were charged under the law now face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 200,000 baht,” or $5,715.
The arrests come before an upcoming referendum on the proposed constitution. While the referendum would imply that Thailand functions as a democracy, authorities have steadily increased their efforts to restrict free speech, particularly as the referendum draws nearer. It is routine for citizens to be arrested for expressing political views that run contrary to the official government line.
Thailand’s Election Commissioner, Somchai Sriusthiyakor, explicitly supports the repressive measures, stating that the government should “make an example” of people who express dissenting opinions about the draft constitution. He rationalized his authoritarian position by accusing those arrested of “using foul and strong language.” His explanation is not logical; as everyone knows, “foul and strong language” is absolutely covered under the principle of free speech.
Amnesty International’s Director of Campaigns for South East Asia, Josef Benedict, reflected on the implications of the recent arrests: “If ordinary people cannot comment on a Facebook post without facing the threat of 10 years behind bars and a hefty fine, what hope is there for any open and honest debate on the military government’s draft constitution?”
Free speech is an inalienable right under international law. Please sign the below petition, demanding that those arrested for posting Facebook comments be pardoned and released immediately.
I was distressed to learn that a group of citizens in your country are being punished for posting their political opinions on Facebook. Their arrests and ongoing detentions are a flagrant violation of their right to express themselves freely.
Many people around the world are concerned that your government is using heavy-handed tactics to silence political dissent. This is particularly significant given the upcoming referendum on the new draft constitution. Arresting people for exercising free speech has the effect of stifling political discourse and coercing the electorate into espousing the official state line.
Please show the world that Thailand is committed to democracy by releasing those arrested and protecting their right to free speech.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Barnellbe