THAILAND: MILITARY COUP – Junta poses grave dangers to lives and liberties

The Asian Human Rights Commission reiterates its condemnation of the military coup in Thailand and calls for immediate restoration of the constitution and civilian government.

Since this morning, September 20, the coup group headed by army Commander-in-Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin has made a series of pronouncements under martial law. These include that:

1. The democratic 1997 Constitution of Thailand has been abandoned and the Constitutional Court suspended from duties.

2. The constitution will be amended before civilian government is restored.

3. Independent bodies established under the constitution, including the newly-formed Election Commission, have been dissolved.

4. Political assemblies of five persons or more are prohibited.

5. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has been authorised to monitor the contents of media reports.

None of these steps protect the security of the people of Thailand. None of them are benign. On the contrary, they are direct attacks on fundamental rights and the physical integrity of those who care for these rights.

Thailand is today without a constitution and without the rule of law. The army is now unfolding a long-term strategy for consolidation of control.

There are many causes for alarm.

Former members of parliament belonging to the party of the deposed caretaker prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, have reportedly been taken into army detention. A former deputy prime minister has been “invited” to stay at an army facility: the language for extralegal detention commonly used by the notorious military regime in neighbouring Burma.

The lives and liberty of journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders, former politicians and others in Thailand may soon hang in the balance. In fact, any person who today attempts to assert an independent opinion or be outspoken there is already at risk.

As independent institutions under the constitution have been dissolved, it can be assumed that the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and Ombudsman, among others, are also effectively closed down.

The coup has already obtained huge international attention. Huge international intervention should follow.

The Asian Human Rights Commission applauds those national leaders and international organisations that have condemned or expressed serious concern over the coup. It calls for a stronger, louder, more determined reaction, especially from all United Nations agencies. It calls for the removal of Thailand from participation in global bodies until unconstrained civilian government is restored.

Make no mistake: the military junta is not a national saviour; it is a national tragedy. It is now posing an enormous threat to the security of people throughout its country. It has no right to discard the constitution. It has no right to amend it. It has no right to threaten the citizens of Thailand with arrest for exercising their fundamental civil rights. It is untenable. It must restore the constitution, return power to civilian hands, and go back to the barracks.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-221-2006
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Administration of justice, Corruption, Democracy, Freedom of association, Freedom of expression,