Public Statement by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
On the first anniversary of the coup in Thailand
For immediate release on 22 May 2015
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has unlawfully seized ruling power from the people on 22 May 2015. 112 decrees have been issued by the NCPO in the past one year including 184 NCPO Orders, 17 Orders by the NCPO’s Head, and 112 Bills have already been deliberated by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA). Though the NLA has been tasked to promulgate the law, but the NCPO has maintained its absolute grip over the legislative affairs of the country including the invocation of Section 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand without any checks and balances and to reinforce impunity of the officials. Meanwhile, judicially, the NCPO has issued an order to authorize the Military Court to try cases against civilians. It is indeed the most severe affront against the rule of law.
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) is formed to provide legal aid to people affected by the exercise of state power in the aftermath of the coup. We have found in the past one year the NCPO’s implementations have affected justice process and human rights at least on the following matters.
- The trial of civilians in Military Court, the exercise of Martial Law, and the deprivation of people’s rights to freedom of expression
The NCPO has exercised its power to threaten people preventing them from exercising their right to freedom. More than 700 individuals have been summoned or invited for attitude adjustment. A ban has been put in place to prohibit political gathering, the violations of which have led to the arrest of more than 166 demonstrators or political dissents. Martial Law has often been invoked to hold a person in custody at least for seven days. And an Order has been issued to authorize the Military Court to try cases against civilians found culpable of cases including insult against the monarchy, an offence against national security, an offence relating to war weapons, and violations of the NCPO orders and announcements.
Such exercise of power has incurred fear making people feel not inclined to exercise their right to freedom of expression. Some people have chosen to live in exile since it they had opted to fight their cases in the military justice system, it would have provided them with no assurance as far as the impartiality and independence of the judiciary is concerned. Moreover, given the single-tiered nature of the military court, they would have no opportunity to ask a court of higher instances to review their cases. This is blatantly the flouting of the right to fair trial.
- Forced evictions of people from forest area
After the issuance of the NCPO order no. 64/2014 regarding the suppression and prevention of destruction of forest resources and the implementation of the master plan to deal with deforestation, encroachment on public land, and the sustainable management of natural resources, it is initially estimated that more than 100 communities including thousands of households have been affected. The forest and land management policy implemented with draconian power largely ignores traditional use of the land. In addition, in many of the areas in which the villagers have faced forced eviction, the land has been under negotiation with the authorities and the villagers have previously been given permission to temporarily stay put until further solution can be forged by both parties. But the NCPO’s order has acted as an impetus to force the authorities to carry out the eviction against the villagers in haste without considering the ongoing negotiation.
- The exercise of Section 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand
Though Martial Law has been lifted, it was replaced by Section 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, which has led to the appointment of Peace and Order Maintenance Officer by the Order of the NCPO’s Head no. 3/2015. Such officers have even more power than those with power vested by Martial Law. According to the Order of the NCPO’s Head no. 3/2015, the Peace and Order Maintenance Officer can act as an inquiry official together with the police and as a result, the cases they get involved have to be indicted with the Military Court. In other word, the military officer as the Peace and Order Maintenance Officer, can get involved since the arrest, investigation, prosecution and adjudication. This has led to gross violation of the right to fair trial as it obviously lacks impartiality and independence.
In addition, it seems likely that the Head of NCPO will exercise Section 44 on more matters, administratively and legislatively including the reshuffle of government officials, the administration of regular impendent organizations, the proclamation of special economic zone, etc. Such exercise of power is single-handedly done by one person without whatsoever checks and balances. And the person who issues the order also has the power to certify the order and the act making it absolutely compatible with the Constitution and relevant statutory laws. In addition, the person who carries out the order is exempted from an legal culpability and no remedies can be sought through whatsoever means should the implementation of the order or the act has caused any damage.
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) deems that apart from a lack of legality of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) itself, the NCPO has ruled the country by shunning public participation and without listening to any opinions. An effort has fervently been made to deprive people of their rights and liberty and the military has even taken over the judiciary power despite the fact that they are one of the political stakeholders and dispute parties as well. As a result, the administration of the country this way shall bring no solution to the ongoing conflicts in the country given that not all parties in society have been treated with justice and equality. The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) would again demand that the NCPO;
- Stop trying civilians in the Military Court
- Stop exercising Section 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand
- Provide for the drafting of the Constitution with public participation and ensure that a general election be held to return power to the people as soon as possible.
With respect in the rights and liberty of the people
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)