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Thailand’s emergency decree ‘an excuse’ to end pro-democracy protests, MPs say

03/12/2020

Thailand’s emergency decree ‘an excuse’ to end pro-democracy protests, MPs say

JAKARTA – Southeast Asian lawmakers today heavily criticized the Thai government’s decision to introduce a new emergency decree that severely restricts peaceful assembly and expression, and grants the authorities powers to crackdown on all protesters. They called for it to be immediately rescinded, and for the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all detained peaceful pro-democracy activists and protesters.

What’s happening now in Thailand is an outright blatant abuse of emergency powers to crack down on fundamental freedoms and shield those in power from any form of legitimate criticisms,” said Charles Santiago, Malaysian MP and Chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

The thousands that have taken to the streets in Bangkok, and nationwide, have done so peacefully, and are fully entitled to raise concerns about the current state of democracy in Thailand,” he added.

The emergency order, which came into force in the early hours of 15 October, is a major threat to human rights in the country. It bans gatherings of five persons or more, and broadly prohibits the publication of news and information “which may instigate fear amongst the people” or that “affect national security or peace and order”. Under the decree the authorities could also arrest and detain people without charge for up to 30 days on grounds as vague as “supporting” or “concealing information” about the protests. During the announcement of the measure, authorities cited the need to “maintain peace and order” and that protesters had “instigated chaos and public unrest”.

Since its imposition, dozens of protesters, including three pro-democracy leaders, were reportedly arrested for their participation in the 14 October rally, which was part of a series of pro-democracy rallies held nationwide in recent months. These have largely been youth-led, and called for major changes to Thailand’s political order, including the dissolution of Parliament, the enactment of a new Constitution and reforms to the monarchy. Since the protest movement began, scores of individuals have faced illegal assembly charges, including those under an earlier COVID-19 emergency decree that authorities have routinely extended, despite the number of confirmed coronavirus cases being minimal nationwide.

Authorities must release the name of all those who have been arrested and ensure that they are given access to lawyers, their families and medical assistance if injured, APHR said.

We call on our fellow parliamentarians in Thailand to immediately exercise their oversight powers, by providing prompt and independent review of the necessity for the use of emergency powers and ensuring that people’s fundamental rights are protected,” added Santiago.

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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) was founded in June 2013 with the objective of promoting democracy and human rights across Southeast Asia. Our founding members include many of the region's most progressive Members of Parliament (MPs), with a proven track record of human rights advocacy work.

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