Thailand: lifting of the ban on political activities is welcome but more is needed
The ICJ and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) welcome the decision of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, acting as the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), to lift certain restrictions on political activities.
The organizations highlight, however, that much more is needed to fully reinstate protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Thailand ahead of elections scheduled to be held on 24 February 2019.
This order repealed Article 12 of HNCPO Order No. 3/2558, which prohibited the gathering of five or more persons for a “political purpose”, lifting a ban which had carried a punishment of imprisonment not exceeding six months and/or a fine not exceeding 10,000 Baht.
“The lifting of the ban on political gatherings is welcome – however, the new order only lifts one specific restriction imposed by HNCPO Order 3. Restrictions on fundamental freedoms imposed by other articles of HNCPO Order 3, such as the granting of broad, unchecked powers to military officers to investigate, arrest and detain persons for up to seven days, remain in force,” said Kingsley Abbott, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser.
“We reiterate our call for the Thai government to immediately amend and repeal all laws, HNCPO Orders, NCPO orders and announcements inconsistent with Thailand’s international human rights obligations.”
ICJ and TLHR also express serious concern that even as nine orders and announcements have been repealed by HNCPO Order No. 22/2561, Article 2 of the order clarifies that “prosecutions, actions or operations” already in effect by virtue of those orders will not be affected by the coming into force of the Order.
Cases brought before 11 December 2018 under HNCPO Order No. 3/2558 to penalize persons exercising their rights to free expression, assembly and association can therefore legally continue to be prosecuted in courts.
“Cases brought under the now-repealed section of HNCPO Order 3 should be dropped or withdrawn. They should have never been brought before the courts in the first place,” said Abbott.
“In the lead up to elections next year, the Thai government must take further steps to expand space for free expression, assembly and association. This new order is welcome, but it is certainly not enough.”
Further information is available in the full statement below
Thailand-Lifting political ban-Advocacy-Joint Statement-2018-ENG (full statement in English, PDF)
Thailand-Lifting Political Ban-Advocacy-Joint Statement-2018-THA (full statement in Thai, PDF)
ICJ, ‘Thailand: Lift ban on political gatherings and fully reinstate all fundamental freedoms in Thailand’, 1 October 2018
ICJ, TLHR and Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF), Joint Follow-up Submission to UN Human Rights Committee, 27 March 2018
ICJ and TLHR, Joint submission to the UN Human Rights Committee, 13 February 2017
Kingsley Abbott, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser, email: kingsley.abbott(a)icj.org