UPDATE (Thailand): Four months of martial law under dictatorship; emergency rule in south to continue


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-007-2007
ISSUES: Military, State of emergency & martial law,

Dear friends,

The military junta that has now controlled government in Thailand for four months has in recent weeks made clear that martial law was never partially lifted at the end of November, as it had earlier ordered, and that it instead now intends to use more of the powers under that law to stifle dissent to its illegal rule. Meanwhile, it has said that it will extend the emergency regulations in the southern provinces that are exacerbating unrest in the region. It is also taking many other steps to consolidate the return of the army to power in Thailand, which together constitute a serious threat to the prospects for human rights, the rule of law and democracy in the country in coming years.


On September 19 the military junta in Thailand imposed martial law, under which army officials have enormous powers to stop demonstrations, close roads, censor news, search people and places at any time, arrest and detain people, and give orders to the bureaucracy and judiciary, as if the country was at war.

At the end of November the regime stated that martial law was being lifted in 41 of the country’s 76 provinces, including Bangkok.?

However, at the start of January the head of the military regime, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, made clear that the King of Thailand had never signed the order to lift martial law and so it is still in full effect in the whole country. He said that the armed forces now have the intention to use more of the provisions of martial law in the coming period, and it has since been announced that the provision denying more than ten persons the right of assembly will be actively applied in the south, apparently in order to stop local people protesting outside police stations and government offices against arbitrary arrests under emergency regulations there. Many such persons are alleged to be tortured, and some subsequently disappeared and killed.?

The whole of Thailand has now been under the rule of the gun for four months, with no indication of when that situation will change.


Meanwhile, the military regime has also said that it will extend the Emergency Decree over the southern border provinces for a further three months when it expires on January 19.

The decree was introduced by the former prime minister in mid-2005 as part of his heavy-handed approach to the violent conflict in that part of the country. It grants even wider powers to the army and police than martial law and grants them complete impunity from prosecution for any actions taken under it, prompting the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings to say that it makes it possible for them to “get away with murder” (see AHRC-PL-056-2006).

The emergency decree has only helped to worsen the conflict, and independent bodies that have studied the situation in the south have recommended that it be withdrawn, including the prominent National Reconciliation Commission (read final report). The former government ignored the commission’s findings.

When the military regime took over, it placed as a top priority solving of the conflict in the south of Thailand, and also mouthed concerns about the need to end the emergency regulations there (AS-255-2006). But this has never happened. Instead as the violence has continued so has General Sonthi extended the decree and is due to do so again, as it must be renewed after three months.?


In recent days the government has been criticised by journalists writing for newspapers and magazines (broadcast media is heavily centralised and under strong control) for attempting to silence reporting on the activities of the former government and other opponents. In fact, it has from the start sought to interfere in the media much more than any other government in recent times, and according some data, internet censorship has jumped by over 500 per cent since it took control (AHRC-PL-004-2007). The AHRC earlier issued an appeal on the closing of websites and radio stations under the junta (UP-190-2006).

Meanwhile, movements and activities of various groups and individuals are continuing to be closely monitored and pressure applied to continue to give the false impression that there is not much discontent about the military regime. A news report in the Bangkok Post on January 19 stated that 1628 new security cameras will be installed in public places around Bangkok to monitor public movements there.


Even more dangerously, the military regime has initiated a huge number of changes to restore its own people to power and reorganise state agencies in its favour, as well as vastly increase the military budget. Having accused the former government of nepotism and corruption, it has now behaved identically by promoting and appointing its own supporters to positions of authority, awarding itself big salaries and allocating huge resources for its own objectives.

Of special concern is the revival of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) under the command of General Sonthi as a key coordinating and investigating agency. The ISOC was a cold-war era anti-communist body that allegedly ran death squads responsible for the murders of peasant leaders, trade unionists and others with left-wing or anti-government affiliations in the 1970s and 80s. Its power was subsequently diminished and in the time of the former government it was placed under the authority of the prime minister. But the new regime has revived the agency and ordered that all policing and investigative bodies, including those groups that are meant to be semi-independent, like the Department of Special Investigation under the justice ministry, report to it. This is a reversion to an anti-rule-of-law model of the state that existed decades ago in Thailand. It also runs contrary to the principles that underpin the 1997 Constitution, which the military has purported to be reforming while in fact destroying it.

For previous appeals and other relevant material on the 2006 military takeover of Thailand and its consequences, please see: Thailand: Military Coup 2006 (issued one month after the takeover) and the AHRC Human Rights Report 2006: Thailand.


Please write to the head of the military regime in Thailand, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, to demand the immediate lifting of martial law and also an end to the emergency regulations in the south and an immediate return to civilian constitutional rule there.

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Dear General Sonthi,

THAILAND: Lift Martial Law, end the Emergency Decree in the south

I am writing to you to register by great disappointment and anger that four months after you illegally seized power by a military coup in Thailand on September 19 not only are you still sitting in the seat of power, but also Martial Law remains in effect across the whole of Thailand and the Emergency Decree is set to be extended over the southern provinces.

Since the time that you took power, there have been many inventions and untruths. One of them was that Martial Law would be quickly ended. For instance, Khunying Laxanachantorn Laohaphan lied to the entire international community at the United Nations in New York on September 27 when she said on your behalf that, “We can well expect that one of the first tasks of the new civilian government will be to do away with martial law.”

At the end of November it was widely reported that 41 provinces were no longer under Martial Law. But according to recent media reports, His Majesty the King never signed the order to lift martial law, that it remains in effect and that the armed forces has now imposed a ban under its provisions against gatherings in the south, to prevent protests against police and military detention of persons there.

Meanwhile, I have also been informed that your government intends to extend the Emergency Decree over the southern provinces for a further three months. The irony of this situation should not be lost on you. One of the top priorities that your administration claimed to have had from the start was to end the violence in the south, and not behave towards that region in the manner of the former administration. But in fact by extending this decree for a second time you are using the very tool of that administration, as the decree was an executive order signed and championed by former prime minister Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin Shinawatra.

The decree did nothing to solve the problems in the south under the former government and it will do nothing other than contribute to more violence under yours also. That this is so has been established by all fair and independent-minded persons and organisations who have examined the law and its consequences, including the National Reconciliation Commission, whose findings on the south you once commended, and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, who has likened the decree to a licence to kill.?

The effect of your coup on the international reputation of Thailand was enormously negative. At a time that your country was being seen–despite all of the flaws and problems–as a leader of social progress in Asia, you have turned back the clock by decades. By prolonging laws that do nothing other than to exacerbate human rights abuses and hinder Thailand’s return to the rule of law, you are doing a grave disservice to your country and the entire region. I urge you, accordingly, to lift Martial Law, retract the Emergency Decree over the south and step down from any positions of authority in order to allow for a return to genuine civilian government that can pave the way for genuine constitutional rule, not some fraud perpetrated under your regime.?

Yours sincerely,



General Sonthi Boonyaratglin
Council for National Security
c/o Royal Thai Army HQ
Ratchadamnoen Nok Road
Bangkok 10200
Tel: +662 280 2432-5
Fax: +662 280 2436


1. General Surayud Chulanont
Interim Prime Minister
c/o Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Bangkok 10300
Tel: +662 280 1404/ 3000
Fax: +662 282 8631/ 280 1589/ 629 8213
E-mail: spokesman@thaigov.go.th or prommin@thaigov.go.th

2. Mr. Nitya Pibulsonggram
Interim Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
443 Sri Ayudhya Road
Bangkok 10400
Fax: +662 643 5111/ 5320?
Tel: +662 643 5271/ 5333
E-mail: kritg@mfa.go.th, ommfa@mfa.go.th, permsec@mfa.go.th or information@mfa.go.th

3. Mr. Aree Wongaraya
Interim Minister of Interior
Office of the Ministry of Interior
Atsadang Road
Bangkok 10200
Tel: +662 224-6320/ 6341
Fax: +662 226 4371/ 222 8866
Email: ommoi@moi.go.th

4. Prof. Saneh Chamarik
National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
422 Phya Thai Road
Pathum Wan District
Bangkok 10300
Tel: +662 2219 2980
Fax: +66 2 219 2940
E-mail: commission@nhrc.or.th or saneh@nhrc.or.th?

5. Mr. Luis Alfonso de Alba
UN Human Rights Council
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
E-mail: hrc@ohchr.org, jdiaz@ohchr.org

6. Ms. Louise Arbour
High Commissioner for Human Rights
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Fax:?+41 22 917-9012 (ATTN: HIGH COMMISSIONER)
E-mail: larbour@ohchr.org

7. Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo
Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression
Attn: J Deriviero
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9177

8. Mr. Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions
Attn: Lydie Ventre
Room 3-016
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9155

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UP-007-2007
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Military, State of emergency & martial law,