Public Statement on “The Declaration of Severe State of Emergency and Crackdown on Protests”

On October 15, 2020, General Prayut Chan-ocha’s have declared a severe state of emergency in Bangkok claiming that “a number of groups have solicited, incited, and acted to organize a public assembly in violation of the Public Assembly Act” in Bangkok. Through various means and channels, the rally has made to create chaos, disruption and public disorder including an act that infringes upon the royal motorcade. The declaration stated that it is reasonable to believe such violent acts may affect national security, safety in personal life and public property and do not constitute a peaceful assembly according to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand. The rally also bears a direct impact on the achievement of the measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic which shall directly affect the country’s fragile economic stability. Therefore, it is justifiable to enforce emergency measures to address the situation and to bring it to rest effectively and timely. This is to ensure the enforcement of the law and the maintenance of public order and interest.”

At the same time, a crackdown on the protests began on Ratchadamnoen road at 4.00 am. At least, 28 protest leaders and demonstrators were apprehended and taken to the Region 1 of Border Police Bureau in Pathumthani and to the Chanasongkram police station. The arrest of five people was made possible by the execution of existing warrants, whereas the other 23 people were arrested without warrants. On October 13, 21 demonstrators have already been apprehended and held in custody from the Ratchadamnoen Rd. and 20 of them have been denied bail by the Court and held in custody in the Bangkok Remand Prison and the Bangkok Woman Correctional Institution.

In addition, the Prime Minister has also appointed military, police and civilian officials as competent officials vested with the power to carry out the arrest and detention of an individual, to summon an individual, and to seize, search and dismantle pursuant to Sections 11 and 12 of the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergency 2005 (the Emergency Decree).

With grave concern regarding the situation, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has these opinions to offer;

  1. Khana Ratsadon’s rally from October 13-15 at the Democracy Monument and their march to the Government House have been carried out peacefully and unarmed. Given that it has caused no violence and danger, the protesters should be protected pursuant to Section 44 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 2017 and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
  2. The context of Khana Ratsadon’s rally cannot be treated as an emergency situation pursuant to the Emergency Decree as it does not have such impact to cause public disorder, could not constitute an infringement on national security nor subject the whole nation or parts of the nation to a precarious situation or may constitute an act of terrorism.
    Even if the authority deems this rally unlawful, they are required to proceed according to the legal procedure: filing a motion with the court for a warrant to disband the rally. However, the authorities simply use it as a pretext to declare a state of emergency and do not carry out their duties given in the Public Assembly Act. This is intended to avoid judicial review and any civil and criminal liability and disciplinary actions related to the acts of the officials per Section 17 of the Emergency Decree. The declaration of the state of emergency is, therefore, unreasonable and disproportionate compared to the state measure on the crackdown.
  1.  TLHR is aware that the schedule and venue of the October 14 rally has been publicized in advance over a month ago while the protesters have not been informed of the route of the royal motorcade which may get closer to the protest site. It is the discretion of the security units to choose the routes in order to avoid this area. Moreover, there are alternative routes. Therefore, the security units’ decision to let the royal motorcade travel through the site must have been prudently planned based on their judgment that the rally is peaceful and causes no harm. In reality, the royal motorcade can travel past the protest site without any restriction or any disruption caused by the protest that may cause damage to the property or individuals joining the entourage. The royal motorcade only needed to reduce the speed and saw symbolic actions which are common in any protests. Thus, the claim that the royal motorcade is obstructed by the protest is not justifiable to declare the severe state of emergency.
    As a result of today’s declaration of the severe state of emergency, Thailand is now subject to three orders of state of emergency: the state of emergency in the Southern Border Provinces (SBPs), the state of emergency throughout Thailand in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the severe state of emergency in Bangkok. This means that two orders of state of emergency have been declared in Bangkok which subsequently causes a strange effect in law enactment.
  1. According to the Emergency Decree, police officers have the power to arrest and hold persons in custody up to 30 days without charges. Nevertheless, such arrests must be preceded by filing a motion with the court per the Emergency Decree’s Section 12. Therefore, today arrests without any warrant from the Court have to be made based on the procedure prescribed in the Criminal Procedure Code. It is clearly stated that the suspects have the right to legal counsel, must be informed of the charges, and must be taken to the police station of jurisdiction immediately. But in reality, they have been taken to an area which is not the police station of jurisdiction. Even though the officers cited the severe state of emergency, the order is only effective in the territory of Bangkok, not the Region 1 of Border Police Bureau located in Pathumthani. Such detention is, therefore, unlawful and infringes on the right to a fair trial for suspects.

Based on the aforementioned opinions, TLHR has the following demands for General Prayut Chan-ocha and responsible officials:

  1.     Revoke the declaration of the severe state of emergency in Bangkok, signed on October 15, 2020, immediately given the inadequate reasons to authorize this order.
  2.     Immediately release all persons being held in custody as a result of their exercising their rights to freedom of expression as they only exercised their rights to freedom of assembly.
  3.     If the authorities deem any person having committed any offenses, they should respond by following the procedure prescribed in the Criminal Procedure Code during the arrest, detention, and prosecution as it will guarantee the protester’s right to fair trial.