By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator
Despite the sunny resorts and hot weather, current events in Thailand are far from a Thai Spring.
The Thai military declared martial law on May 20. A military junta, calling itself the National Council on Peace and Order (NCPO), led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, announced on May 22 that it was taking over the administration of the country. Thai Winter descends.
The declaration of Martial Law decree must not be a blueprint for human rights violations. It is crucial that the military shows the utmost restraint and fully respects Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law.
The current events in Thailand date back to the last coup in 2006 when the military ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Shinawatra and his supporters, known as the “Red Shirts,” came to power with a populist message and support in rural areas and the northern part of the country. The current coup resulted in the ousting of Thaksin’s sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Following six months of violent conflict on the streets of Bangkok, the military take-over signals a victory for the Bangkok elite and pro-monarchy parts of the country. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, issued a royal command on Monday backing Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The junta has moved quickly to dismantle the government including the senate, the lower house of parliament, the constitution, the judiciary and police and has issued summons ordering that nearly 250 people report to the Thai military.
Dozens of reporters, writers and academics have been ordered to turn themselves over to the military and a once vibrant press has been stifled. A number of those already in detention are being held incommunicado in unknown locations with no access to lawyers, courts or relatives.
While martial law stipulates that detainees can only be held for seven days before they must be charged, in the current climate of lawlessness, there is concern by observers that arbitrary detention under the junta may be extended further.
A new twist on protests has arisen since the military is cracking down on protesters. Protesters, emulating “The Hunger Games,” are raising three fingers in silent protest. Military leaders are warning against this display and say they may still crack down on these silent protests.
Amnesty International has issued an action surrounding this crackdown. Join us in calling for those detained by the military to either be charged with a recognizably criminal offense or to be immediately and unconditionally released from detention.
Dr. Tyrell Haberkorn, Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for Thailand contributed to this post.