On 15 July 2005 the Prime Minister of Thailand enacted the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergencies and on 19 July declared a state of emergency in three southern provinces.
The Prime Minister has justified the Emergency Decree as a necessary response to the deepening conflict in the south of Thailand.
The Emergency Decree authorizes the Prime Minister to declare a state of emergency in parts or in the whole country, and grants him far-reaching powers during an emergency to override the authority of any government ministry or agency, civilian or military. The Decree provides him with the power to proclaim regulations limiting and suspending a wide range of fundamental human rights guaranteed under the Thai Constitution and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified and which is therefore legally binding on Thailand.
The central feature of the Emergency Decree is that it provides far-reaching powers that are often only vaguely defined, while at the same time reducing the accountability of the Government to the parliament and the courts for declaring a state of emergency and for the measures taken. In light of past experiences and the present crisis in the south of the country, the ICJ urges the Government to review the Emergency Decree as it provides increased power with less oversight. Fewer checks and balances usually create an environment in which abuse of power is more likely.
The ICJ recognizes the security threat the Government faces in the south of Thailand. However, the political legitimacy of emergency measures should flow from their compliance with the Constitution, the rule of law and international legal obligations that bind Thailand. Human rights law allows states to fight security threats effectively, including the right to limit and suspend certain rights in a state of emergency, but it requires that a state does so as an extension and not abrogation of the rule of law.
The concerns about the Emergency Decree are only heightened by serious concerns raised by Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission, non-governmental organizations and UN experts about repeated human rights violations and abuses of powers in the south, especially by the military and police under martial law. These violations have exacerbated political tensions.
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