A coalition of children’s rights NGOs has condemned recent political violence in Thailand that cost the lives of four children.
The Children’s Organization Network, a coalition of 43 local and international NGOs, called on all sides of Thailand’s political divide to place the safety and welfare of children ahead of any political agenda.
“We especially condemn intentional or unintentional acts carried out by any party that cause death and danger to children and young people,” it said in a statement on Wednesday at a press conference at the Thai Journalists Association offices in Bangkok.
A brother and sister died from wounds sustained in a grenade attack in Bangkok on Sunday. A day earlier a five-year-old girl was killed in a drive-by shooting during an anti-government rally in eastern Trat province. Another five-year-old girl died on Tuesday morning after being struck by a bullet in the same shooting.
None of the victims were connected with anyone involved in the protests.
The coalition urged law enforcement agencies to bring those responsible for the violence to justice quickly and called on the government to provide medical care and compensation to families affected.
Tich Na Nakorn, director of the Juvenile Observation and Protection Center, said children should be kept away from “protest zones or any at-risk areas”.
“We are not taking the side of any anti-government or anti-protester groups,” she said during the press conference. “Our viewpoint is that the rights of the children must be protected.”
Mental health professional Dr Yongyuth Wongpiromsan said he feared the effect the violence could have on the development of children who witness it. “They will not be able to control their emotions; they will grow up more aggressive,” he said. “All people must stand against violence regardless of what group they belong to."
In its statement, the coalition urged parents not to take their children to protest sites “precisely because there are no protest sites that are clearly safe for children”.
It also called on protest leaders to strongly advise parents and guardians to remove children from all demonstration sites.
While not criticizing anyone specifically, the statement also requested that protest leaders “not use children and youths as political pawns in their cause”.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has been pictured at various rallies flanked by children, and a photo on his Facebook page, that was later taken down, showed children dressed in protest paraphernalia.