On 1 February 2018, a group of individuals was gathered holding banners to show their support to Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan at the entrance of the Ministry of Defence. Later, a report has been made against them to the officers at the Phra Racha Wang Police Station. On 5 February 2018, one of the demonstrators, Mr. Adul Thammachit, has gone to meet an inquiry officer at the Phra Racha Wang Police Station to answer to the charges relating to having participated in a gathering of five persons or more without permission, an offence against the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558; and an offence against the 2015 Public Assembly Act’s Section 7 coupled with 27 for participating in a public assembly within 150 meter-radius from a royal residence.
Based on the indiscriminate enforcement of the law, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has found Thailand, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil Rights and Political Rights (ICCPR), is obliged to exercise its legislative, administrative and judiciary powers to uphold respect, protect and guarantee the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as provided for in Article 21 of the treaty and as provided for in Section 44 of the 2017 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand as well.
TLHR has the following opinions to make concerning the prosecution of the persons who have exercised their right to freedom of assembly;
- At present, the 2015 Public Assembly Act is a major instrument that provides for procedures concerning the exercise of the right to freedom of public assembly. It provides for mandates of concerned authorities which are supposed to facilitate the exercise of such right. TLHR is of the opinion that the 2015 Public Assembly Act tends to restrict the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly, unnecessarily and disproportionately, so much so the essential elements of the right are hampered. The implication also stems from the enforcement of Section 7 of the Act.
- In the prosecutions of individuals alleged to have violated the Head of NCPO Order no. 3/2558’s Article 12 and the 2015 Public Assembly Act, such as the aforementioned case along with members of the People Go Network and those who were gathered to demand elections (MBK 39), the competent officers assume that such gatherings have been made illegally or were politically motivated. This has subject the interpretation of a public assembly, an exercise of the right to freedom of assembly as provided for by the Constitution and international treaty, to the arbitration of the competent officers who may at their own judgment determine as to which demonstration is politically motivated or not, or if such demonstrations warrant prior notification as required by the 2015 Public Assembly Act or not.
- In its Concluding Observation on the Universal Periodic Review of Thailand’s second country report in March 2017, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Thailand guarantee and protect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and refrain from imposing any restriction which does not comply with the derogation terms and conditions set forth in Article 4 of the ICCPR, In particular, it was recommended that deprivation of liberty against an individual who has simply exercised their rights and may cause no material infringement on national security or public order be avoided.
TLHR urges both civilian and military authorities, the police and concerned persons in Thailand to stop prosecuting individuals who exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly in all cases as provided for by the Constitution and international treaty. In addition, Thailand should respect the exercise of such civil rights and political rights and accept the crucial importance of the rights which can be exercised in accordance to a democratic rule.