Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Thailand's military government must deliver the free and fair elections

Thailand Human Rights Campaign joined the 12th Asia Europe People's Forum (AEPF12) during 29 September - 1 October 2018 in Ghent, Belgium

Unending Repression
Thailand has been ruled by a military junta since May 2014 when the army toppled a democratically elected Pheu Thai government led by Yingluck Shinawatra, promising to make Thailand a rights- respecting democratic country and that is far from reality after over 4 years.
Civil rights suffering
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)-the ruling military government body has resorted to a range of tactics aims at silencing anyone who criticise them or raise concern over political developments in the country.
The military junta under Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha has banned political activities and public assembly, enforced media censorship, arbitrarily arrested dissidents, and detained civilians in military facilities. Authorities have used less majesty (insulting monarchy), sedition and computer crime charge to suppress free speech.
It’s unjustified suppression of the key human rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Activists, including human rights defenders, have been targets. The suppression as extended to human rights researchers for their works on rights violations, lawyers for defending their clients, journalists for reporting on sensitive topics, academics for expressing opinion on academic freedom, and politicians for criticizing the government.

The lesson to be learned
In April 2016, the government enacted the Referendum Act, a law governing the constitutional referendum which was held on 7 August 2016. Article 61 of the Act provides for up to ten years imprisonment and a fine for “ anyone to disseminate texts, pictured or sounds that are inconsistent with the truth or in a violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or treating manner aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot to vote in any direction or not vote”.
Suppression of the campaigns on the Constitutional Referendum in 2016
In the month before the ballot, all critics voices were aggressively suppressed, with public forum cancelled, independent monitoring initiatives shut down, and books, pamphlets, letters, and other campaigns material seized.
In all, more than 100 individuals were charged with criminal offences relating thief peaceful activities, while dozen of students activists were arrested and arbitrarily detained for protesting against military rule. Hundred remain under investigation or be hide bar.
These tell us that human rights violations almost invariably intensify in the lead-up to polling day.

The 2019 General Elections
People remain skeptical as the regime has repeatedly postponed long-promise elections. The two bills were approved on September 12th by King Maha Vajiralongkorn and officially published in the Royal Gazette. Under the constitution, the government must comply with the new laws within 150 days from its enactment, expected to be held in May 2019.
Voters must elect 500 members to the Lower House, but military will effectively appoint 250 members to the Upper House. Both vote to select the prime minister, so the military still has the advantage and Prayut could be prime minister again.

The new military-backed constitution constrains further elected government with an appointed senate, and commits government to follow the military’s 20-year development plan.
Delays still possible
With special legislative powers accorded under Act 44, Prayut was allowed to implement any laws or regulations he saw it fit to maintain peace and stability.

The ongoing silencing of dissent
More than 200 people who have protested for elections have been charged with sedition-like offences. The authorities have repeatedly harassed and persecuted people for their speech, writing and internet posting critical of government agencies and officials under the Computer Crime Act. They faces up to five years in prison and fines for spreading false information and damage national security, if they found guilty.

Under the restrictions, the opposition parties have been unable to campaign and the military have used them as a method to shut down criticism.

Your support is needed
We urge international community to put pressure on the Thailand's military government to end repression and  lift restrictions on civil and political rights,including the Head of the NCPO Order 3/2015, the Head of the NCPO Order 13/2016, and the 2015 Peaceful Assembly Act so that upcoming national elections can be free and fair.

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