Prolonged state of emergency troubles rights and freedom – Thai PBS World Tonight [7th April 2021]

The prolonged imposition of state of emergency is questioned by human rights panelists after over a year under the Emergency Decree declared on March 26, 2020. Such enforcement of law has a direct impact on the people’s freedom.

The imposition is reviewed periodically by the Cabinet, and has been extended 11 times already. The latest one is extended until May 21, 2021.

It is ever continuing because the decision is made by the executive branch without checks from the legislative branch which has no power over the issue, said Pat Niyomsilp, a lecturer from the Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University.

He also said that, in Thailand, three issues are particularly addressed namely the ever continuing extension of emergency state, accountability, and discrimination.

Pat was one of the panelists of human rights defenders and experts speaking at an event, “Human Rights Perspective After One Year Anniversary Under Emergency Decree”. The panel agreed that the imposition of the state of emergency in Thailand was not in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Pat explained that a state of emergency could be justified by imminent threats threatening survival of a nation, with no appropriate laws to handle them. And once used, proportionality must be taken into consideration.

Such restrictions in Thailand might not be necessary, the expert pointed out, as the Communicable Disease Act already exists and could similarly control the situation.

The concern is that the Covid-19 pandemic is being used as a pretext to announce the state of emergency, Pat added.

The emergency measures could potentially be exploited for political interest, to silence dissent as well as invade the people’s privacy, the law lecturer said.

Another panelist Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, a member of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), told the forum that at least 457 people have been charged for allegedly violating the Emergency Decree in the past year while exercising their political rights.

This has nothing to do with the disease control measures under the special laws, she stressed, highlighting how the state of emergency is being used discriminately in Thailand.

The event, hosted by Amnesty International Thailand, also featured an annual report on human rights situations around the world.

The annual report on human rights situations stated that, for the year 2020, Thailand saw no significant change from the preceding year. The areas of concern in Thailand, however,  lied in enforced disappearance, toture and other ill treatment, repression of dissent, freedom of expression, human rights defenders, and refugees, according to the report.


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