Thailand: ICJ alarmed at increasing use of arbitrary powers under Article 44

Thailand should immediately end the use of Article 44 of the Interim Constitution which gives the Head of the military junta sweeping, unchecked powers contrary to the rule of law and human rights, said the ICJ today.

Despite widespread international condemnation of Article 44, its use has increased every year since the Interim Constitution was promulgated on 22 July 2014 following the coup d’état of 22 May 2014.

The Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Prayut Chan-o-cha, has issued at least 107 Orders under Article 44 (available in the public domain): at least one in 2014; 44 in 2015; and 62 in 2016 to date – with 37 Orders being issued since June 2016 alone.

“The Head of the NCPO’s increasing willingness to use extraordinary powers to make ad hoc, arbitrary changes to existing laws and regulations without judicial oversight should be alarming to everyone, including the business sector,” said Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the ICJ.

“Article 44 places law making power in the hands of one man, while Articles 47 and 48 of the Interim Constitution block judicial review or access to remedies and reparation. This is entirely inconsistent with the three fundamental pillars of the rule of law, equality, accountability and predictability, and should be revoked immediately,” he added.

The Article 44 orders range from those restricting the civil rights of all people in Thailand to those aimed at seemingly minor and ordinary bureaucratic processes.

To date, Article 44 has been used to introduce a raft of revisions into existing Thai law without observing proper process or practice, including providing for the acquisition of land for the establishment of Special Economic Zones bypassing the usual environmental and social checks and balances provided for in domestic legislation; granting military officers sweeping powers of investigation, arrest and detention; and prohibiting the gathering of five or more persons for political purposes.

“It is long past time for Thailand to revoke Article 44 and all others laws, orders and announcements issued since the military coup that are inconsistent with the rule of law and human rights,” Tayler said.

“The justifications the military presented for such measures were never valid or credible, and certainly not so after more than two years of direct military rule.”

All Orders issued under Article 44 – and all other NCPO Orders and Announcements – will continue to remain in force under the draft Constitution that was accepted at a public referendum on 7 August 2016, and may only be repealed or amended by an Act.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam announced that the NCPO was considering converting many of the hundreds of orders issued by the NCPO into legislation, including those issued under Article 44.

thailand-art-44-ncpo-news-press-releases-2016-eng (full text with background, in PDF)

thailand-head-of-ncpo-orders-advocacy-2016-eng (full list of all publicly available Head of NCPO Orders, in PDF)

thailand-art-44-ncpo-news-press-releases-2016-tha (full text in Thai, PDF)


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