NGOs Slam Thailand’s Move Granting Military Police-like Powers

BenarNews Staff
160405-TH-ngos-620.jpg Soldiers march during a ceremony in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat marking Royal Thai Armed Forces Day, Jan. 18, 2016.

A new decree giving soldiers police-like powers to arrest suspected criminals will help maintain order, a Thai junta spokesman said Tuesday in defending the move from criticism by rights groups.

“The intention of the order is to allow the military to respond to the law breakers in order to keep the public peace,” Col. Piyapong Klinpan, deputy head of the public relations office for the National Council for Peace and Order – the junta’s formal name – told BenarNews.

“We fairly exercise laws in line with good governance, which is the most important thing. We will not arbitrarily use the laws against any groups of persons or person,” he added during a phone interview.

On Tuesday, six international NGOs that advocate human rights issued a joint statement condemning NCPO Order 13/2016, the decree issued by the junta last week that gives military personnel as well as paramilitary volunteers from the rank of sub-lieutenant and up powers normally reserved for law enforcement officers.

The NGOs demanded that the Thai government revoke the order immediately.

“The implementation of Order 13/2016 will almost certainly lead to violations of Thailand’s international human rights obligations and the rule of law and must be revoked immediately,” Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists, said in the joint statement, which was co-signed by Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Human Rights Watch, among other groups.

“We have observed a steady erosion of human rights protections in Thailand since the military coup of 22 May 2014 and this Order signifies another, jarring, movement in the same direction,” Tayler added.

The decree is an extension of Article 44, a clause in the interim constitution that the junta evoked last year when it ended martial law but gave the military sweeping powers. The decree authorizes military personnel to arrest people suspected of involvement in 27 crimes, including gambling, loan sharking and human trafficking.

The powers give soldiers and other military personnel the authority to summon, arrest and detain suspects in non-prison facilities, search people’s premises and seize assets at their discretion, according to the Associated Press.

According to the six NGOs, the decree is legally problematic and could pave the way for human rights violations for several reasons. Among them, the order creates potential impunity by giving military personnel immunity from prosecution; actions taken under the order are not subject to judicial review; the decree allows the military to hold suspects for seven days without judicial oversight; and it could be opened to abuse and used to silence government critics, the NGOs said.

“The Order is yet another example of the pernicious removal of powers from the judicial system to review the military’s actions, to the detriment of rights protection and the rule of law,” Champa Patel, Interim Director, South East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, Amnesty International, said as part of the statement from the NGOs.

Responding to the NGOs’ particular concern about immunity for military personnel, Col. Piyapong told Benar, “The order realizes the need to provide soldiers with lawful protection, in which the NCPO adheres to the rules of laws.”


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