Thai civil court rejects ban on rubber bullets, orders police to exercise more caution

Thailand’s Civil Court rejected an application for an injunction forbidding the police from using rubber bullets against anti-establishment protesters, citing the necessity under the State of Emergency to bring “emergencies” under control, but has instructed police officers to exercise greater caution.

The application was submitted by two journalists, who were hit by rubber bullets while reporting on a demonstration last month, complaining that the police’s action violated the Public Assembly Act.

The Court ruled that the emergency decree currently prohibits demonstrations, activities or assembly in a congested area or incitement to do so. The Public Assembly Act is not applicable to the current circumstances, so the police have the right to perform their duties and choose the most appropriate means with which to achieve that, including the use of rubber bullets.

The Court also stated that there is no evidence indicating specific intent by the police to attack those working in mass media, in which case the latter would have access to justice under the Criminal Code, without needing an injunction.

The Court rejected the journalists’ request for the Court to prohibit the police from cracking down on protests as well, reasoning that members of the media do not have the right to file a motion on behalf of the protesters.

Regarding a request to bar the police from limiting the area in which the media can perform their duties during demonstrations, the Court ruled that it was the police’s duty to provide security, including management of the whole area, with the aim of keeping members of the media safe. The Court deemed it was not appropriate to issue such an injunction.

The Court did, however, agree to issue an order to protect the media from physical harm by the police in future demonstrations, with the condition that they comply with the principles and guidelines for the performance of their duties, and that cases can be filed demanding compensation from the state for damage incurred from the use of crowd control weaponry.

Rubber bullets have still been fired at today’s protest.

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