BANGKOK – An aide to Thailand’s prime minister on Friday said he would next week seek the expulsion of human rights group Amnesty International from the country, after it was accused by ultra royalists of undermining national security.
Seksakol Atthawong, a vice 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 Interior Ministry in a week.
Ultra royalists have accused the London-based group of stoking unrest by calling for a halt on the filing of criminal charges against people who urge reforms to the monarchy, an institution revered by many Thais.
“This organisation destroys the security of the country, it supports groups that want to topple the monarchy, it lacks impartiality and sided with an anti-government movement that is anti-constitutional monarchy,” Seksakol told Reuters.
Prayuth in November ordered an investigation into Amnesty. He has not commented publicly on the petition.
Amnesty in a statement on Friday urged the government to honour its human rights obligations.
“While we recognise that the Royal Thai Government has a duty to protect public order and national security, we continue to highlight that authorities must do so in a manner that is in accordance with international human rights law,” it said.
Many Thais consider the monarchy sacrosanct and view any challenge to the monarchy as a threat to society.
Youth-led protests against Prayuth’s government gathered pace late in 2020 and included unprecedented calls for royal reforms that triggered a crackdown by authorities.
More than 1,700 activists face security-related charges, including at least 169 charged under a strict lese majeste law that punishes perceived royal insults by up to 15 years in jail.
The move against Amnesty comes as the government also seeks to pass a law regulating non-profit organisations. More than 1,000 local and international groups have opposed it, saying it threatens civil society.