Press Statement: Stop the arbitrary detention of Mr. Worachai Hema and Mr. Wattana Muangsuk
On 26 March 2016, The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has ordered the military officers to arrest Mr. Worachai Hema, a former MP, at his residence. The officers did not inform his family and relatives of the location where he was held in custody. Col. Winthai Suvaree, the spokesperson of the NCPO, told the media that the detention of Mr. Worachai was a result from Mr. Worachai’s comment that if the current Constitution draft failed to pass the referendum, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha should resign as prime minister to take responsibility, and that the detention was for Mr. Worachai to stop expressing political opinion.
Later on 27 March 2016, Mr. Wattana Muangsuk, the former Minister of Social Development and Human Security, has criticized the NCPO’s detention of Mr. Worachai Hema. After expressing his opinion, military officers visited Wattana’s residence and cited Article 44 of the interim Constitution to arrest him, but they did not meet Wattana. The military officers ordered him to go to the 11th Military Circle on 28 March 2016 and they would detain him since.
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) deems that even though the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Order No. 3/2015 allows an appointed military officer as the Peace and Order Maintenance Officers to exercise their discretion to hold in custody a person who is suspicious of committing certain offences specified in the Order for not more than seven days, but the reason of detention of Mr. Worachai Hema and Mr. Wattana Muangsuk originated from their exercise of freedom of expression to criticize the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), a right that is protected by the constitution and international obligations, and is not a crime or a wrongful act as specified in certain offences under any Orders or Announcements of the NCPO. In addition, the arrest and detention of Mr. Worachai and Mr. Wattana were executed without court warrants, without disclosing the place of detention, and without access to their relatives. This has deprived Worachai and Wattana of the guarantees for their rights and freedoms during the seven-day detention. Therefore, the detention is arbitrary and violates Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a state party and is obliged to act in compliance with its obligations.
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights calls for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to respect the right to exercise the freedom of expression of people which is fundamental right provided in Article 4 of the interim Constitution 2014 and International Covenant to which Thailand is a state party.
The TLHR, therefore, calls on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to stop such an arbitrary detention invoking the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Order No. 3/2015 and to immediately release Mr. Worachai Hema.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)