Asia Thai junta proposes 3 months detention without charge

Thai junta proposes 3 months detention without charge

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand's 29th prime minister.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s 29th prime minister.

(AA) – A leading rights group on Friday called for Thai lawmakers to reject a proposed law that would allow the military to detain civilians for three months without charge.

Human Rights Watch said the draft amendment to military law would violate Thailand’s international treaty obligations.

“Thailand’s government is trying to hand the military unchecked authority to detain civilians,” Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said in a statement. “Thai lawmakers should reject this military power grab that puts all citizens at risk of prolonged detention without charge.”

The proposal from the junta led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha would revise the Military Court Act by allowing local military commanders to detain civilians for a period up to 84 days without charge or judicial oversight.

Since last May’s coup, which overthrew the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, a military decree empowers military court to try civilians with no possibility of appeal. The decree applies to every crime in the Thai penal code.

Hundreds of politicians, activists, academics and journalists critical of the junta have been detained in military camps, usually for a period of seven days – the maximum allowed under martial law.

Military courts and detentions are justified as the methods for maintaining the stability needed to carry out reforms ahead of an election due in early 2016.

“Intervention by judges under the procedural code has been the sole safeguard against prolonged arbitrarily detention since the coup,” according to Human Rights Watch’s statement.

The amendment is due to be considered by the 220 military-appointed members of the National Legislative Assembly by the end of February.

Observers say it would breach Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to ensure due process and fair trial rights.

The treaty says a person detained on suspicion of a crime must be brought before a judge within days of his arrest.

“The proposed amendment is just the junta’s latest broken promise to return the country to rights-respecting, democratic rule,” Adams said. “Enshrining detention without charge and military trials of civilians will perpetuate dictatorship – not democracy – in Thailand.”

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