On coup anniversary, groups demand restoration of democracy, end to human rights violations

Press release
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(Bangkok, Paris) The military junta must promptly restore democratic rule and put an end to ongoing and systematic human rights violations, FIDH and its member organizations Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) reiterated today. The joint call was made on the four-year anniversary of Thailand’s latest military coup d’état.

“The junta’s failure to keep its promise to hold an election, the lack of certainty over the timeline for the next polls, and the ongoing restrictions on fundamental human rights are worrying signs that the military is determined to cling to power. It’s time for Thailand’s military to march back to the barracks and return power to the people.”

Debbie Stothard, FIDH Secretary-General

In the past four years, Thailand’s human rights record has dramatically deteriorated under the military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The military has ruled through the use of numerous draconian laws and repressive decrees to severely curtail people’s rights, including their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. Many of these laws and decrees are in breach of Thailand’s international obligations under human rights treaties to which the country is a state party.

Hundreds of civilians, including politicians, activists, human rights defenders (HRDs), students, academics, and journalists have been arbitrarily detained. In many cases, those detained were held incommunicado at military facilities for several days. The junta has euphemistically termed those arbitrary arrests as ‘attitude adjustment sessions’ or ‘invitations’.

Severe restrictions on the right to freedom of expression have been compounded by a dramatic rise in the abuse of Article 112 of the Criminal Code (lèse-majesté). Since the May 2014 coup, authorities have detained at least 127 individuals on lèse-majesté charges. Fifty-five of them were sentenced to prison terms of up to 35 years. In many cases, prison sentences were handed down by military courts in trials that did not conform to international standards.

Despite public statements made by Thai government officials that they intended to ensure a safe environment for HRDs, the NCPO has overseen a sustained campaign of attacks, arbitrary detentions, and harassment against HRDs.

The junta also supported the drafting and the adoption of a new constitution that was designed to entrench military power and weaken democratic institutions. The constitution was enacted in April 2017, following a referendum that did not conform to international standards and whose lead-up was marred by serious restrictions and numerous arrests of anti-charter campaigners.

“For all its talk about reforming Thailand, the only achievement that can be attributed to the military junta is the transformation of the country into an authoritarian state where the rule of law has been destroyed, democratic mechanisms have been replaced by bureaucratic power, and military officers have become a significant component of governing committees at every level.”

Jon Ungpakorn, iLaw Executive Director

Over the past four years, various United Nations (UN) human rights monitoring mechanisms and UN member states have expressed their concern over a myriad of violations of civil and political rights, as well as economic, social, and cultural rights in Thailand. However, the NCPO has consistently failed to heed these concerns and to implement the recommendations it received on key human rights issues.

“Even on non-politically sensitive issues, such as the abolition of the death penalty and the improvement of prison conditions, no progress has been made under the junta. After four years of military rule, capital punishment remains on the books, the prison population has reached an all-time high, and the rights of detainees continue to be systematically violated.”

Danthong Breen, UCL Senior Advisor
Press contact
FIDH: Ms. Maryna Chebat (French, English) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)
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