Amnesty International is greatly concerned by the outbreak of violence and resultant deaths and injuries in Bangkok, Thailand, on 13-14 May.

While the military used lethal force, it is possible that they were attacked first by protesters, persons aligned with them, or agents provocateurs.

Amnesty International urges restraint by both sides of the conflict. The Thai military must ensure that security forces adhere to international principles on crowd dispersal and the use of force, including by using force only as a last resort and to the minimum extent necessary. The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) must refrain from obstructing government actions aimed at protecting human rights, and must protest peacefully and without resort to arms or in a manner that violates the human rights of others.

In an earlier statement Amnesty International welcomed the Thai government's pledge to investigate promptly, effectively and impartially the violence of 10 April, as well as several incidents of violence thereafter. The Thai government must also now investigate this most recent violence. Accountability must prevail. The Government should deal likewise with any complaints or reports of human rights abuses.

Amnesty International urges the Thai government to promptly end the censorship of websites and other news outlets (as per its powers under the Emergency Decree), that are not intended to cause fear or misunderstandings, to present distortions, or to adversely affect security and order. The government should also revoke the decree at the earliest possible opportunity.

Background

On the night of Thursday 13 May and throughout Friday 14 May, the Thai military clashed with protesters in Bangkok's central shopping and business district. Both the government and the protesters claim that a "third hand", either overtly aligned with - or operating independently, but in support of - the other side, is instigating or provoking violence.

At least eight people have been killed, including four protesters from bullet wounds and one soldier from a grenade explosion. Over 100 have been wounded, among them Maj. General Kattiya (‘Sah Daeng’), a leader who has openly supported the protesters for several years, and at least one Thai and one foreign journalist.

The protesters are the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), commonly known as ‘Red Shirts’ for the colour of their clothing. Many of them are allied with former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, deposed in a 2006 coup d'etat currently in voluntary exile, and/or are calling for greater democracy in Thailand. The UDD have been demonstrating in Bangkok since 12 March 2010, consistently demanding the dissolution of Parliament, followed by new elections. They have also at times demanded the resignation and exile of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who on 3 May proposed a five-point Reconciliation Plan, which included a dissolution of Parliament and new elections on 14 November 2010. The protesters initially accepted the plan in principle, but then countered with a ‘Red Plan’ and refused to vacate their protest site, which they have occupied since 3 April.

The Internal Security Act has been in force since the protests began and an Emergency Decree was declared on 7 April; both confer enormous powers on the military, while the latter has been extended to cover nearly half of Thailand's 76 provinces.

Amnesty International’s Thailand specialist was in Bangkok from the start of the protests through 5 May and will return on 16 May.