The State of Emergency in Thailand, declared in March 2020 at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, will end on 1 October, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) announced today (23 September).
A protester standing in front of razor wire barricade during a 2021 protest at the Nangloeng Intersection.
CCSA spokesperson Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin said during today’s press conference that, in order to transition to the post-pandemic phase, the CCSA has agreed to repeal the Emergency Decree because the Covid-19 situation in Thailand has improved and life has returned to normal, while the Ministry of Public Health no longer classifies Covid-19 as a dangerous communicable disease, ending the State of Emergency which has lasted over 2 years. The CCSA will also be dissolved.
Dr Taweesin also said that disease control measures implemented during the pandemic will no longer be in effect. Starting from 1 October, visitors to Thailand will no longer be required to show a Covid-19 vaccination certificate or test result, and although mask wearing is encouraged, it will not be mandatory.
Although the State of Emergency was supposedly declared to combat the Spread of Covid-19, it has repeatedly been used to prosecute activists and protesters taking part in the pro-democracy protests starting in July 2020. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 1,467 people have been charged in 647 cases with violating the public gathering ban under the Emergency Decree for participating in protests.
TLHR lawyer Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen said that these charges are not dropped upon the end of the State of Emergency, noting that of the 647 violation of the Emergency Decree cases, 28 have been dismissed, while the prosecutor ruled not to indict the accused in 20 cases. Only 7 cases were found guilty. She also speculated that the Public Assembly Act will replace the Emergency Decree in controlling protests.
Poonsuk said that cases that were dismissed or not indicted were mostly because the prosecutor or judge ruled that protesting is a constitutional right, because the protest were not crowded, or because the gathering bans were not lawful. Cases have also been dismissed because of the lack of evidence or because the defendants were not protest organisers.
She said that, for TLHR, the authorities must drop violation of the Emergency Decree charges against protesters and activists, because the right to protest is a fundamental right and it is not in the interest of the public to proceed with the charges, noting that public prosecutors are allowed under the law to dismiss or withdraw charges, as well as deciding not to appeal in cases which the Court of First Instance has already reached a verdict.
“The government should return to the people their freedom, and return to police officers, public prosecutors, and judges their working hours, so that they are able to take care of criminal cases and can actually protest the people,” Poonsuk said.
Amnesty International Thailand representatives and activists went to Government House this morning to file a petition calling for the repeal of the Emergency Decree. (Photo from Amnesty International Thailand)
This morning, before the end of the State of Emergency was announced, representatives of Amnesty International Thailand (AI) and other activists and academics facing charges under the Emergency Decree went to Government House to file a petition calling for the repeal of the Emergency Decree and for charges against participants in peaceful protests to be dropped.
AI also called for the authorities to guarantee the freedoms of expression and assembly, to make sure that crowd control officers are properly trained in line with international standards, to amend the Communicable Disease Act in line with international principles, and to prevent impunity for state officials so that it can be used in place of the Emergency Decree.
AI director Piyanut Khotsan said that the gathering ban imposed under the Emergency Decree is excessive and violated the rights and freedoms of Thai people, especially the freedoms of expression and assembly, noting that violation of the Emergency Decree is the charge most often used against protesters, and that at least 241 of the 1,467 people charged were under the age of 18.