Authorities intimidate HIV activists after supporting civil rights march

The police and soldiers have created the climate of fear among HIV activists, making them decide to stop giving out assistance to the HIV-positive in provincial hospitals. This intimidation came after activists signed a petition in support of the civil rights march. 
On 25 January 2018, the police and soldiers visited members of the Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS in Sisaket and Surin Province. The intimidation occurred after the network signed a statement of FTA Watch, urging the junta to stop prosecuting the organisers of the civil rights march “We Walk, A Walk for Friendship”. 
Nimit Tian-udom, director of Aids Access Foundation, told Prachatai that in the morning, police officers and soldiers visited hospitals in the provinces and asked the hospitals’ director to summon the network members for interrogation.
Nimit added that provincial officers from Ministry of Social Development and Human Security also summoned the network’s local leaders to question about their reason for signing the petition. “Those who were summoned has no involvement with the march. They’re just members of the group which signed the statement,” stated Nimit.
To avoid further problems with the authorities, some HIV groups decided to halt their daily activities, such as visiting the house of people with HIV and giving advice for those who came to the hospitals, Nimit pointed out.
The statement by FTA Watch, with signatories of 142 civil society organisations, expresses solidarity to the civil rights march and urged junta to immediately cease the prosecution against eight organisers of the rally.
The We Walk march from Bangkok to Khon Kaen kicked off at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on 20 January with four main agendas: the right to universal health care, the rights of farmers, community and environmental rights, and the Constitution. 
Since the beginning, the rally has faced several interruptions by the police and soldiers. On the first day, the authorities blocked the activists from exiting Thammasat University, claiming the march violated the junta’s ban on public gatherings of five people or more. The protesters then divided into groups of four people and marched from the university group by group.
A day after, Ayutthaya police officers searched their supply trucks and briefly detained four protesters for interrogation. The protesters had to start the march earlier than plan after the authorities pressured an Ayutthaya temple which sheltered them. The organisers of the civil rights march are also facing prosecution for violating the junta’s ban on public assembly.
The march on the fifth day (Photo from People Go Network)