THAILAND: Public Statement Opposing the Declaration of Martial Law

Thursday 22 May 2014

Date: 21 May 2014 Type: Statement Source: Human Rights Lawyers Association Keywords: Martial Law, human rights

General Prayuth Chan-ocha has invoked the 1914 Martial Law Act and issued the Royal Thai Army Notifications no. 1/2557 and 2/2557 early morning of 20 May 2014 in order to restore peace and order and to deal with mass demonstrations, after which all government agencies have been instructed to follow the command of the Peacekeeping Command Directorate (PCD).

The Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA), and other undersigned organizations are opposed to the imposition of Martial Law with the following reasons;

1. The Martial Law Act provides for sweeping and draconian power to restrict personal rights and freedom. Its imposition must be necessitated by the need to maintain order in wartime or riot during which time no other recourse could be sought to deal with the situations. But the current violent situation can still be managed by existing applicable laws should the government and state officials perform their duties effectively as provided for by law to contain the demonstrations and to ensure public safety. The incumbent situation provides for no valid ground based on which Martial Law can be imposed.

2. Amidst schisms of groups of people, as an administrative organ of the government, the RTA has to hinge on the principle of non-intervention and refrains from meddling with the administration of a civilian and democratic government. Any form of intervention could be construed as a form of coups d’etat and is in breach of the laws which can be invoked to put an end to a violent situation and violates democratic principles.

3. The imposition of Martial Law increases power of the army to conduct the arrest, search and seizure without any liability as a result of their performing their duties provided for by Martial Law. Therefore, the officials shall have the power to bar any demonstration causing deprivation of the right to mobility of a person as provided for by Article 34 of the Constitution, restricting the right to freedom of assembly as provided for by Article 63, the right to justice process provided for by Article 40 and intervening the operation of media which is tantamount to a violation of access to information by people as provided for by Articles 45, 46 and 56. It could have brought about deprivation of the right, freedom and human dignity of a person and sovereign power according to the Constitution. It may simply exacerbate the situation contrary to the intent of the law which means to resolve a situation. Lessons should be learned from the imposition of Martial Law to solve violent conflicts in the Southern Border Provinces

4. Even though Martial Law provides the authorities and their officials with sweeping power to make any notification and to stop a person from doing anything, but users of the law have to bear in mind that the law was first enacted during the Absolute Monarchy during which time people’s rights and freedom were completely disregarded. Though the law is still applicable, its use has to abide by the Constitution. Therefore, the exercise of the rights and freedom as provided for by the Constitution has still be protected and state agencies are obliged to enforce the law in light of Article 27 of the Constitution. The military is not allowed to exercise its power more than necessary as it may have infringed on the fundamental rights and freedom of people. Moreover, according to the 1996 Tortious Liability of Officials Act, any official and authorities can still be held liable for any damage incurred from their enforcement of Martial Law.

Given the above reasons, the undersigned organizations deem that the imposition of Martial Law shall not help to solve the situation and to garner trust in society, the elements of which are essential for restoring peace and order in society. A solution has to be forged by sincerity and mutual trust among all conflicting parties which are determined to solve the problems through political venues and public participation. Therefore, it is necessary that the RTA remains impartial and hinges on the rule of law and democratic principles and it is urged to revoke the imposition of Martial Law immediately.

With respect in human rights and human dignity Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) Union Civil for Liberty of Thailand (UCL) Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) ENLAWTHAI Foundation Human Rights and Development Foundation ( HRDF)

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