Thailand: statement to UN on situation for human rights

Thailand: statement to UN on situation for human rights

The ICJ, speaking at the UN Human Rights Council, highlighted concerns with criminalization of political gatherings, arbitrary detention, use of military for law enforcement, and trials of civilians before military courts, in Thailand.

The statement was made during discussion of the outcome of the Second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Thailand.

While congratulating Thailand on completion of the UPR, the ICJ oral statement continued as follows:

However, the ICJ is disappointed that several key recommendations concerning restrictions of civil and political rights in the country did not enjoy the support of Thailand.

The interim Constitution, put in place by the military government after the May 2014 coup, remains in force. Article 44 gives the government sweeping, unchecked powers inconsistent with the fundamental pillars of the rule of law and human rights.

The military government has issued numerous orders and announcements under the interim Constitution, including some that criminalize political gatherings, allow arbitrary detention for up to seven days without charge, and provide military officers broad powers of law enforcement.

At least 1,811 civilians have faced proceedings in military courts contrary to international law and standards, many merely for exercising their rights to free expression and peaceful assembly.

Thailand did not accept any of the recommendations to remove these restrictions on the rule of law and human rights.

While the ICJ welcomes the Order of 12 September 2016 ending the practice of prosecuting civilians in military courts for crimes committed after that date, approximately 500 civilian cases remain in military courts.

The ICJ is also concerned that in July the government charged three human rights defenders with criminal defamation for raising allegations of torture in the deep South.

The ICJ urges Thailand to accept and implement recommendations relevant to:

  • revoking the interim Constitution and all NCPO orders and announcements that are contrary to the rule of law and respect for human rights;
  • transferring all pending civilian cases to civilian courts and set aside the convictions of all civilians prosecuted in military courts since the 2014 coup; and
  • ending all harassment of human rights defenders in Thailand.

The statement may be downloaded in English and in Thai in PDF here:

thailand-hrc33-upr-advocacy-non-legal submission-2016-eng




UN Human Rights Committee: joint submission by ICJ and TLHR on Thailand

UN Human Rights Committee: joint submission by ICJ and TLHR on Thailand

The ICJ and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights provided a joint submission to the UN Human Rights Committee for its consideration during the adoption of a list of issues for the examination of the Second Periodic Report of Thailand under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

During its 117th Session, from 30 June to 25 July 2016, the Committee will prepare and adopt a List of Issues on Thailand.

These issues will be put to the Government of Thailand for formal response ahead of the Committee’s full examination of Thailand’s Second Periodic Report during the Committee’s 119th Session, the exact dates of which have yet to be confirmed but which is expected to take place in March 2017.

The ICJ and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights’ joint submission raises matters and suggests concrete questions to be put to the Government of Thailand concerning the following issues:

– Thailand’s derogation under Article 4 of the Covenant;

– Torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and custodial deaths in disputed circumstances; and

– Thailand’s new institutional and legal framework since the coup d’état, which severely restricts the exercise of Covenant rights within the country and in particular the recent introduction of the National Council for Peace and Order’s (NCPO) Head Order 13/2016, which grants members of the military wide-ranging law enforcement powers to ‘prevent and suppress’ 27 ‘crimes’, together with blanket immunity from prosecution.

THAILAND-JOINT ICJ TLHR HRC LOI SUBMISSION-Advocacy-non legal submission-2016-ENG (full text in PDF)

Thailand: Human rights groups condemn NCPO Order 13/2016 and urge for it to be revoked immediately

Thailand: Human rights groups condemn NCPO Order 13/2016 and urge for it to be revoked immediately

Thailand must immediately revoke National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 13/2016 which confers sweeping powers on the Royal Thai Armed Forces in contravention of human rights and the rule of law, said today the ICJ and other human rights groups.

On 29 March 2016, pursuant to Article 44 of the Interim Constitution, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, Head of the NCPO, issued Order 13/2016 which provides appointed “Prevention and Suppression Officers” and their assistants, drawn from the commissioned ranks of the Armed Forces, including the paramilitary Ranger Volunteers, with wide-ranging powers to prevent and suppress 27 categories of crimes including against public peace, liberty and reputation, immigration, human trafficking, narcotics, and weapons.

“The implementation of Order 13/2016 will almost certainly lead to violations of Thailand’s international human rights obligations and the rule of law and must be revoked immediately,” said Wilder Tayler, ICJ’s Secretary General.

“We have observed a steady erosion of human rights protections in Thailand since the military coup of 22 May 2014 and this Order signifies another, jarring, movement in the same direction,” he added.

The Order raises numerous human rights concerns say the ICJ, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), and Fortify Rights (FR). These concerns include:

1. Grants a form of immunity from prosecution to those acting under the Order, leading to impunity contrary to the principle of accountability required by the rule of law.

“Instead of paving the way for a return to democratic rule, the Thai junta has broadened its powers to do almost anything it wants, including committing abuses with total impunity,” said Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. “Repression becomes a daily reality as Thailand descends further into military dictatorship.”

2. Actions taken under the Order are not subject to judicial review, contrary to the rights to effective remedy, to judicial control of deprivation of liberty, and to a fair trial, as for instance recognized under Articles 2, 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

 “The Order is yet another example of the pernicious removal of powers from the judicial system to review the military’s actions, to the detriment of rights protection and the rule of law,” said Champa Patel, Interim Director, South East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, Amnesty International.

3. Provides untrained military officials with broadly and ambiguously worded powers of law enforcement likely to lead to abuse, inconsistent with human rights standards including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

“The Order provides law enforcement powers to military officials who do not have law enforcement experience or protocols to summon, search, and arrest persons,” said Evelyn Balais-Serrano, the Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

“This makes the absence of judicial oversight all the more concerning. The fact that this may lead to an abuse of power and the disproportionate use of force by military officials in violation of international laws and standards including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials is very worrying. There is a real risk the Order may be used to restrict the legitimate rights of people such as the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association,” she added.

4. Authorizes the deprivation of liberty of persons for up to seven days in unrecognized places of detention, without judicial oversight, which increases the risk of further human rights abuses, including torture and enforced disappearance.

“Despite its pretense to suppress criminal activities, this Order is likely to result in the commission of very serious crimes that are prohibited under human rights instruments that Thailand has either signed or ratified,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

5. In practice, the Order is open to abuse to repress and silence those perceived as dissenters, including human rights defenders, in violation of international human rights law and standards.

“This Order stands to fuel the fire of retaliation against human rights defenders in Thailand,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “Thailand has an obligation to protect human rights defenders, but this Order could easily be used to target and obstruct their legitimate work.”


Wilder Tayler, ICJ’s Secretary General, t: +41 (0) 229793800 ; e: wilder.tayler(a)

Thailand-NCPO Order-News-Press releases-2016-THA (full text, in PDF, Thai version)

Thailand-NCPO Order unof trsl-Advocacy-2016-ENG (unofficial translation of the Order, PDF)


Thailand: immediately drop criminal proceedings against human rights lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri

Thailand: immediately drop criminal proceedings against human rights lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri

The ICJ today called on the Royal Thai Government to immediately drop criminal proceedings against human rights lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri.

On 2 February 2016, Sirikan Charoensiri received two summons to appear at the Chanasongkram Police Station on 9 February 2016 to be charged with two offences under the Criminal Code of Thailand: “giving false information regarding a criminal offence” and “refusing to comply with the order of an official”.

Such charges could result in punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment.

“The charges against Sirikan Charoensiri apparently relate to her efforts to protect the legal and human rights of her clients, students who never should have faced arrest or criminal proceedings for peacefully exercising their freedoms of expression and assembly in the first place,” said Matt Pollard of the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

“Prosecuting Sirikan Charoensiri for her efforts to defend human rights is totally unacceptable and will only put Thailand further in violation of its international obligations,” he added.

The charges appear to relate to the circumstances surrounding Sirikan Charoensiri’s provision of legal aid to 14 students who were arrested on 26 June 2015 after carrying out peaceful protests calling for democracy and an end to military rule.

Although the precise basis for the changes is not set out in the summonses, the complainant is named as Pol. Col. Suriya Chamnongchok, a police officer involved in the investigation of the 14 students.

Sirikan Charoensiri, a lawyer with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), has provided legal aid to many individuals, including activists and human rights defenders, since military rule was imposed in May 2014.

The ICJ first expressed concern about the Government’s targeting of Sirikan Charoensiri on 2 July 2015, after the Royal Thai Police threatened Sirikan Charoensiri with legal action, publically announced they were considering charging her with a crime, and visited her home and questioned her family.

These threats and harassment, like the currently pending charges, appeared to be in retaliation for her having refused consent for police to search her car after the students’ court hearing, and for having filed a complaint with the police when they proceeded to impound it.

The ICJ has brought the case to the attention of the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders.

The situation of human rights in Thailand will be examined by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2016, as part of the Council’s Universal Periodic Review of all States.

“Ahead of Thailand’s human rights review by the United Nations in May, and against the background of the tabled ‘roadmap’ towards democratic rule, the need for the Royal Thai Government to restore respect for human rights only grows more urgent by the day,” said Pollard.


In Bangkok: Kingsley Abbott, International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, t +66 94 470 1345 ; e:

In Geneva: Matt Pollard, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser, t: +41 22 979 38 12 ; e: matt.pollard(a)


The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a Party, guarantees the right to peaceful assembly; the right to freedom of expression; the prohibition of arbitrary arrest or detention; the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law (including the right of prompt access to a lawyer and precluding jurisdiction of military courts over civilians in circumstances such as these); and the prohibition of arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence (which includes arbitrary searches or seizures).

The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders affirms the right of everyone peacefully to oppose human rights violations. It prohibits retaliation, threats and other harassment against anyone who takes peaceful action against human rights violations, both within and beyond the exercise of their professional duties. It protects the right of persons to file formal complaints about alleged violations of rights. The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers provide that governments are to ensure that lawyers are able to perform their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.

Thailand-Sirikan Charoensiri-News-Press releases-2016-THA (full text in PDF, Thai)



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