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Thailand Using Repressive Laws To Intensify Crackdown On Online Critics: Rights Group

Thai authorities are prosecuting social media users who are speaking against the government and the monarchy, said Amnesty International on April 23.

Thailand

Amnesty International on April 23 announced that Thai authorities are prosecuting social media users who are speaking against the government and the monarchy. According to the rights group, the authorities are using COVID-19 as a pretext to silence dissent in the country and many of those targeted for their online posts are awaiting trial and could face up to five years in prison. Social media users told Amnesty International that they were targeted after their post criticising the government went viral. 

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"Through harassment and prosecution of its online detractors, Thailand’s government has created a climate of fear designed to silence those with dissenting views," said Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research, Advocacy, and Policy. "The government’s attacks on freedom of expression online are a shameful attempt to escape scrutiny from those who dare to question them. And repression is escalating, with authorities seemingly using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to further quash criticism and unlawfully restrict human rights," Clare added. 

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Thailand's clampdown

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former military general announced a state of emergency in the South Asian country, increasing restrictions amid coronavirus outbreak. According to Amnesty International, an activist was arrested in November last year over a tweet against the government and the monarchy. The activist was reportedly interrogated by 10 police officers as punishment for the tweet. The tweet had received 60,000 likes before it was deleted by the activist. Before deleting her account, the activist-student tweeted: "I want to warn everyone to think before you tweet and retweet. They are people who are always watching."

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According to reports, the government is using a series of repressive laws to silence the dissenters, including the Computer Crimes Act, which was amended in 2016 giving unprecedented power to authorities to monitor, suppress online content and prosecute individuals for various broadly defined violations of the law.

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(Image Credit: AP)
 

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