BANGKOK (Reuters) – An aide to Thailand’s prime minister said on Friday he would seek the expulsion from the country next week of human rights group Amnesty International, accused by ultra-royalists of undermining the national security.
Seksakol Atthawong, deputy minister in Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s office, said a petition opposing Amnesty’s presence in Thailand had garnered 1.2 million signatures and would be submitted to the National Security Council and to the Ministry of the Interior within a week.
Ultra royalists have accused the London-based group of stoking unrest by calling for a halt to criminal prosecutions of people demanding reforms to the monarchy, an institution revered by many Thais.
“This organization destroys the security of the country, it supports groups that want to overthrow the monarchy, it lacks impartiality and sides with an anti-government movement which is an unconstitutional monarchy,” Seksakol told Reuters.
Prayuth in November ordered an investigation into Amnesty. He has not publicly commented on the petition.
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Amnesty, in a statement released on Friday, urged the government to honor its human rights obligations.
“While we recognize that the Royal Thai Government has a duty to protect public order and national security, we continue to stress that the authorities must do so in a manner consistent with international human rights law,” did he declare.
Many Thais regard the monarchy as sacrosanct and view any challenge to the monarchy as a threat to society.
Youth-led protests against Prayuth’s government gathered pace in late 2020 and included unprecedented calls for royal reforms that sparked a crackdown by authorities.
More than 1,700 activists face security-related charges, including at least 169 charged under a strict lèse-majesté law that punishes perceived royal insults with up to 15 years in prison.
The decision against Amnesty comes as the government is also seeking to pass legislation regulating nonprofits. More than 1,000 local and international groups have opposed it, saying it threatens civil society.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)
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