By The Sunday Nation
DEMOCRATIC and human rights groups have announced a challenge to the junta’s order against political activity at the Constitutional Court as they demand a return of freedom of expression and political assembly.
Democratic Restoration Group, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Centre and representatives of victims of the junta’s order yesterday organised a press conference at Thammasat University. The coalition announced the launch of a campaign to annul controversial order 3/2015 issued by the leader of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) following the 2014 coup.
The order gave authority to military officers to detain for seven days and interrogate anyone deemed a threat to its authority and also prohibits a political assembly of five or more people.
Rangsiman Rome, a member of the coalition, said that for three-and-a-half years the junta-backed government has taken people into custody and later charged them for expressing an opinion that differs from the junta.
The junta has also used tactics to threaten academics who organise academic debates, including sending state officials to monitor the event and making participants feel insecure about their safety.
Rangsiman argued that despite the passing of a new Constitution, the junta continues to practice suppression against Thais exercising their rights. He noted the 2016 Constitution’s guarantees of human dignity, rights, liberties and equality. The junta’s harsh actions had damaged people’s freedom and the reputation of some people had been tainted by junta charges, he said.
“We all have agreed that it is the right time to resolve the issue, so we have come together with plans to file the case at the Constitutional Court in order to put an end to Order 3/2015,” he said.
The group referred to Section 213 of the Constitution, which would allow people whose rights have been violated to directly petition the court for a verdict on whether the NCPO’s order violated the constitution. Rangsiman said the group is gathering public support for filing a petition to the court this month or in January.
Leader of the New Democratic Movement, Sirawich Seritiwat (popularly known as Ja New), said he was a victim of the NCPO’s order when he took a train to visit Ratchapakdi Park and was then arrested by military officers. Sirawich referred to the scandal of military involvement in an irregularity during construction of the park.
“I don’t consider the NCPO’s order or announcement as a law since it was not scrutinised by many parties and approved by Parliament,” he said. “The NCPO’s order was made by a few people and discriminatorily enforced against people who have different political opinions from the junta. For the victim, he does not know who has arrested him. Neither does he know his own future in the seven-day custody period.”
Sirawich said he also wants the court to deliver a verdict to dissolve the NCPO or limit it to using its authority sparingly. He also vowed to campaign for dissolving the NCPO. “The petition would make clear to us which one, an NCPO’s order or the Constitution, takes precedence,” added Sirawich.
Nanthapong Panmas, a Ramkhamhaeng University law student, said that he also became a victim of the order when he campaigned against the Constitution referendum in Samut Prakan in 2016 and those who joined him were forced to quit their jobs.
“It is the time for the junta to have to lift the political ban and let people enjoy their freedom,” he said.