Rights groups comment on Thailand protests

May 18, 2010 at 7:50 AM

BANGKOK, May 18 (UPI) -- Amnesty International says Thai soldiers firing live ammunition during clashes with anti-government protesters in Bangkok are violating people's right to life.

Earlier, the Human Rights Watch in New York asked the Thai government immediately to revoke the designation of neighborhood areas as "live fire zones."

Amnesty International Thailand specialist Benjamin Zawacki said in a news release eyewitness accounts and video recordings show instances of the military firing live rounds at unarmed people who pose no threat to soldiers or others, which "is a gross violation of a key human right -- the right to life."

AI said since last week soldiers have fired rubber and live rounds in and around protest sites in several parts of Bangkok as the government claims there are around 500 "terrorists" hiding among the protesters. Since then, at least 35 unarmed protesters have died and several dozen have been injured, the report said.

In its appeal, HRW said the government's use of neighborhood areas as "live fire zones" could be used to justify unnecessary and unlawful use of lethal force.

The group said the Thai government's agency set up to handle the emergency has rules on the use of live ammunition including when security forces have a "clear visual of terrorists."

But HRW said there is no guidance for security forces to determine whether a person is a terrorist.

The group's Asia director Brad Adams said: "It's a small step for soldiers to think 'live fire zone' means 'free fire zone,' especially as violence escalates," warning ordinary people also live in these zones.

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