THAILAND: MILITARY COUP – Restore civilian government immediately

The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns the military coup in Thailand and calls for immediate restoration of civilian government.

At approximately 10pm on September 19 a group of officers headed by army Commander-in-Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin took power while Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was attending the UN General Assembly in New York. The group, calling itself the “Administrative Reform Council”, has announced that the prime minister is removed from office, parliament is dissolved, the constitution is suspended and the Constitution Court is also relieved of duties. Today, September 20, government offices have been closed and all permanent secretaries have been ordered to report to the army headquarters in place of their ministers. There are reports that some ministers and other persons have been placed under detention. Regional army commanders have been instructed to take control of their areas.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is gravely disturbed by this takeover of power. It has no place in Thailand at a time that parliamentary democracy, despite difficulties, was maturing and taking root, and at a time that the courts were playing a growing role in securing the rule of law there. The coup amounts to a complete rejection of all international laws and standards to which Thailand has in recent years, to one degree or another, sought to adhere.

The Asian Human Rights Commission makes the following calls:

1. The Royal Thai Army must immediately renounce power and allow for a return to a caretaker civilian government by the most effective and expedient means possible.

2. The Supreme Court of Thailand should, in the absence of the Constitution Court, declare the coup unconstitutional and order the immediate restoration of the constitution.

3. The United Nations General Assembly in New York and United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, both of which are in session, must unconditionally condemn the military coup and also call for restoration of civilian government. All democratically-minded national leaders around the world should join these calls.

Let there be no more government by military decree in Thailand.