Joint Statement on the Severe State of Emergency Decree 19th October 2020: Rights to fair trial is violated
Edited version: Joint Statement on the Severe State of Emergency Decree, 19th October 2020
This letter regards the situation in which many youth and civilians came out to demand the resignation of General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Prime Minister of Thailand, the drafting of a new constitution, and the reformation of the monarchy.
Participants continuously organized assemblies and demonstrations until the 14th of October 2020 when they marched from Democracy Monument to the Government House. The Prime Minister responded with the promulgation of the Severe State of Emergency Decree on the 15th of October 2020. It banned gatherings of five people or more and used force to dissolve the assembly around the Government House. Civilians held another assembly at Pathumwan Intersection on 16th October 2020.
From October 13-18, at least 86 assembly goers and leaders were arrested, including two youth under the age of 18. 74 of them are detained at the Region 1 Headquarters for the Border Patrol Police. 80 of them are being prosecuted. At present, they are detained at 5 different places – 27 at Bangkok Special Prison, 19 at Central Women Penitentiary, two at Chiang Mai Central Prison, and three at Thanyaburi District Prison.
Organizations that signed this statement hold the following opinions:
1. All assemblies from October 13 to 18, 2020, were peaceful and unarmed assemblies. No violence or chaos of any kind was instigated by demonstrators. These assemblies, therefore, must be protected according to Article 44 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand and Article 21 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Thailand has ratified.
2. Promulgation of the Severe State of Emergency Decree is unlawful as no evidence indicates that there were any situations serious enough to threaten the survival of the state. There is no evidence of terrorism, abuse, property damage, or any other actions severely affecting the security of the state, the safety of property, and the security of civilians. There exist no circumstances that fulfil the elements of the State of Emergency according to Article 9 and Article 11 of Emergency Decree on Public Administration in the State of Emergency, B.E. 2548 (2005).
3. As the assemblies were peaceful and no evidence exists to justify the promulgation of the Emergency Decree, use of force to dissolve the assemblies was therefore unlawful. It is clear that the promulgation of the Severe State of Emergency Decree was done to increase the unchecked power of state officials in accordance with the Public Assembly Act B.E. 2558 (2015). This act will eliminate liability – whether civil, penal or disciplinary – for state officials who operate according to the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in the State of Emergency.
4. Moreover, the charges and arrests of demonstrators, especially proceedings in accordance with Article 110 of the Criminal Code, which bans committing an act of violence against the Queen or Her liberty, did not reflect the reality of the situation. The Queen’s motorcade could smoothly pass the demonstrators without anyone trying to block it and no one demonstrated great malice against Her Majesty, especially considering the procession took place without the demonstrators being informed beforehand. The arrests and charges leveled against the demonstrators were subsequently a distorted use of the law. The justice system was used as a tool to restrict the right of the people to freely express opposition towards the government.
5. In cases where people were accused of wrongdoing, the person is entitled to a fair trial. They have a right to have an attorney or person of trust participate in the investigation and a right to receive bail. When an arrest takes place, involved officials only have the power to detain people at the office of inquiry for no more than 48 hours. Among the 86 people arrested, 74 were brought in by officials, informed of their charges, and detained before being brought to the Region 1 Headquarters of Border Patrol Police. This did not follow the Criminal Procedure Code and resulted in the deprivation of the arrested persons’ rights, making it difficult for attornies and persons of trust to access them. Because of these circumstances, organizations that signed this statement demand that the government does the following:
1. Lift the Severe State of Emergency Decree in the Bangkok area dated 15th October 2020 because there are no circumstances justifying the promulgation of the decree.
2. Immediately release, and terminate proceedings against, the people detained because they only exercised their freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful and unarmed assembly.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
ENLAWTHAI Foundation (EnLAW)
Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLAW)
Legal Rights and Environmental Protection Association (LEPA)
Muslim Attorney Centre Foundation (MAC)
Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)