11 July 2024

The Campaign for Popular Democracy (CPD), a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the promotion of democracy and human rights, has called on the Thai government to scrap the emergency decree and laws restricting public gatherings and the activities of NGOs.

In a statement, issued yesterday (Sunday), the CPD said that such laws are intended to centralise the power of the state, while negating the rights of the people to peaceful public gathering and to form an association, foundation or an organisation for the public interest in complete disregard for their rights, as enshrined in all constitutions and international treaties to which Thailand is a signatory.

The CPD voiced its strong support for representatives of NGOs, civil society and grass-root networks who have staged a rally in front of the United Nations building on Ratchadamnoen Road in Bangkok since last week, to protest against the draft bill.

The CPD said that the emergency decree, which was imposed at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic more than two years ago to contain the spread of the disease, has been used to restrict political gatherings as well.

As the COVID-19 situation in Thailand improves, the CPD says that the emergency decree, which is set to end on July 31 pending further extensions, is becoming irrelevant and should be scrapped.

A group of civil network representatives rallied at Government House this morning, to protest against the draft bill, due to be considered by the cabinet tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a campaign by civil society to solicit public support in opposition to the draft bill is under way, via Change.org, with more than 14,000 signatures being collected so far.

The campaigners point out that more than 200,000 organizations, such as associations, foundations, institutes, volunteer groups, cooperatives and unions, can be included in the category of non-profit organisations and, as such, would be subject to strict control under the controversial bill, which is vague, broadly based and ill-defined, should it become law.

Penalties stipulated in the bill are not proportional to the nature of the offences, such as a maximum fine of 500,000 baht or a daily fine of 10,000 baht for refusing to cease certain forbidden activities, claim the CPD.

The best chance to stop this, say the campaigners, is now, while public hearings are being held to gauge public opinion of the bill, by signing the petition to support this campaign, which will later be submitted, along with the signatures, to the cabinet for consideration.