Four years since coup, ASEAN MPs urge Thai junta to restore democracy

General Press Releases Monday May 21, 2018 12:57
Bangkok--21 May--ASEAN Parliamentarian Human Rights
Thailand's military regime should immediately lift restrictions on fundamental rights and pave the way for democratic elections as soon as possible, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today.
The collective of regional lawmakers renewed their call for a prompt return to democracy a day before the fourth anniversary of the coup, which overthrew the country's last elected civilian government.

"It is long past time that this military regime fulfills its promise to the Thai people and restores democracy. That means an immediate end to arbitrary limits on fundamental freedoms and a clear timeline for the holding of free and fair elections," said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

Upon seizing power in 2014, the military-led National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was quick to suppress dissent and limit the exercise of basic political rights.

Promises by the junta to hold elections have repeatedly been broken, and restrictions remain in place on public gatherings and political activities. NCPO Order No. 3/2015 bans political gatherings of more than four people, while NCPO Order No. 57/2014 bars political parties from conducting meetings or other activities.

"These restrictions are baseless, and the junta's justifications for instituting them have long since lost any relevance. Their perpetuation is making a mockery of the rule of law in Thailand, and they must be lifted," Santiago said.

MPs expressed concerns over the use of these orders, as well as other statutes, such as the Computer Crimes Act and Article 116 of the Criminal Code, to crack down on dissent. Scores of peaceful protesters have been charged in recent months for staging demonstrations urging the military to make good on its promise to hold elections. In addition, last week, the NCPO brought several charges against members of the Pheu Thai political party for holding a press conference that criticized the junta's record.

"The prosecution of activists, party members, and others merely for peacefully exercising their fundamental rights blatantly disregards Thailand's international commitments and runs afoul of constitutional guarantees and accepted democratic norms," Santiago said.

APHR said that the ban on political activity also prevented the development of an environment conducive to the holding of genuine elections and made it more difficult for a successful return to democracy. The rest of ASEAN is watching developments in Thailand closely, APHR warned, urging the junta to finally live up to its repeated promises to restore democratic norms and give the Thai people the right to freely choose their government.

"Political parties must have the freedom to operate. The ban on their activities should be lifted immediately and they should be allowed to fulfill their intended functions, including connecting with constituents and developing platforms and policies for the benefit of the Thai people," said APHR Board Member Teddy Baguilat, a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines.

"If the NCPO is serious about its proposed timeline for elections, then now is the time to allow parties to resume their operations and prepare to contest the vote," he added.
Parliamentarians reiterated additional concerns over the unlimited power to unilaterally make policy granted to NCPO leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha under Article 44 of the previous interim constitution.
"General Prayuth's limitless authority, coupled with the junta's repeated failure to live up to its own word, sends the concerning signal that Thailand may still be far from democracy's return," Baguilat said.

"If the junta is serious about fulfilling its promises, then the military must end its clampdown on fundamental freedoms and take significant steps to pave the way for Thailand's return to a democratically elected government," he concluded.


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