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Martial Law must not be a Blueprint for Human Rights Violations

Your Excellency,
Mr. Paskorn Siriyaphan
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Republic of Indonesia

On behalf of Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) – a Human Rights organization in Indonesia – we want to express our disappointment and criticism against the imposition of Martial Law in Thailand.

Thailand is stuck in political limbo following the dismissal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine of her ministers on May 7 after a court found them guilty of abuse of power. Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan replaced her, but the anti-government protesters say he has no legal standing and want all remaining ministers of Yingluck's Cabinet to step down.

Early on May 20, 2014, the army commander-in-chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, made a televised announcement that the Martial Law Act of 1914 would be enforced throughout Thailand. He said the intervention, which will continue “as long as necessary,” was needed to prevent imminent riots and widespread disturbances arising from increasingly violent political confrontations between anti-government protesters and government supporters.

Martial Law, which was unilaterally declared by the Thai, suspends or restricts a number of human rights. The military now has powers to detain people without a warrant for up to one week, to seize property, and to search people or property without a court order. It also provides the military with impunity from claims for compensation.
Reflecting on the Martial Law imposed in 2010 that killed around 96 people civilians, the implementation of Martial Law has dangerous potentials. That’s what we’re deeply concerned for. Authorities in Thailand must ensure that human rights are protected and respected, following the imposition of Martial Law which grants the army sweeping powers and imposes tight restrictions on key human rights and has already led to several media outlets being taken off air.

The declaration of Martial Law decree must not be a blueprint for human rights violations. It is crucial that the military shows the utmost restraint and fully respects Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law. Army has already used its powers under the decree to impose sweeping restrictions on freedom of expression in violation of Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law.

The army today prohibited media from reporting stories “detrimental to national security”, and has taken at least ten TV stations off air, most of them linked to pro- or anti-government groups. We strongly condemn the military’s moves to impose tight restrictions on independent media and reporting. National security must not be used as a pretext to silence the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression; media in Thailand need the space to carry out their legitimate work.

The situation in Thailand is tense and volatile, and any attempts to curb the right to peaceful protest and other human rights can destabilize the situation even further. It is crucial that political leaders on both sides make it crystal clear to their supporters that any human rights abuses are unacceptable.

We urge the army to make it clear that military personnel, including commanders, will not be
exempted from prosecution for human rights violations committed when carrying out their duties. As per The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1966, human rights should be provided in both normal and abnormal situations of a state. Moreover, the General Comment No. 29 issued by the UN Human Rights Committee also stated that when a state of emergency is declared, with the consequent reduction in rights, the state must act within the provisions of the constitution and other laws governing the establishment of an emergency, as well as the exercise of power in an emergency.

Based on recent news, Armed Forces of Thailand was stated that the national constitution was officially in a coup after the army took over political power to end the chaos that has lasted seven months. By late Saturday (5/24) the junta also announced it had dissolved the senate and would be assuming control of all legislative powers. Several hours earlier, it had summoned 35 prominent academics and activists to report to army headquarters in addition to some 155 leading politicians and leaders it had already called in for questioning.

The coup also caused more than 100 people remain in military detention in secret locations in what has been seen as a push to suppress dissent and potential opposition to the military takeover. Those who refuse to answer the army's summons are under threat of being court martialled, facing a two-year prison sentence and a fine. The army appears to be the most united institution in Thai society.

We unreservedly condemn the military coup. It has lead to extensive violations of citizen rights, the deterioriation of the security situation and the nation’s stability, and mainly because a military coup is not the democratic way that Thailand, as a member of ASEAN, should take, as stated in the ASEAN Charter. Thailand must focus on ensuring that its citizen’s rights are respected and fulfilled, and on the rapid restoration of the rule of law.

Quoting the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a week ago (5/20), the way to secure Thailand's peace and prosperity is through full respect for democratic principles and engagement in democratic processes. We urge all sides to exercise utmost restraint, refrain from any violence, and fully respect human rights. Also, we strongly believe that there should be no place for violence by any side in resolving political differences and disputes. In the name of international solidarity, we should assist the parties of Thailand and the Thai people in any way possible to restore civilian rule and schedule elections as soon as possible so that the Thai people can decide who governs the country through a transparant, free, and fair democratic elections.

Jakarta, June 9th 2014

Haris Azhar
Executive Coordinator