Invoking the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergency B.E. 2548 (2005), the government has been holding Mr. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk in custody at the Royal Thai Army Cavalry Center, Saraburi (Adisorn Army Camp) since 24 May 2010. After over two weeks, it seems he will still be suject to further detention until the 30-day-limit is reached. The detention has been made without a charge pressed against him. Meanhwile, the Public Relations Division, the Royal Thai Police, has revealed names of a number of suspects being held in custody as per the Emergency Decree. None of them has been pressed with a criminl offence.
The Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) and Union of Civil Liberties (UCL) deem that since Mr. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and others have been held by the virtue of the Emergency Decree without being pressed with any criminal charge, they have to be treated as political prisoners according to the following reasons;
1. The holding in custody of Mr. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk stems from the his roles as part of the core leaders of the 24th of June Democracy Group which campaigns against the government, and that he is editor in chief of “Voice of Taksin”, a periodical which features news and critique about the government’s policy. His roles have been performed as an exercise of his freedom and liberties accorded to any individual. Such an act is an essential element of a democracy in which all citizens are provided with the right to freedom of expression. They are supposed to be able to express their different views, beliefs and political opinions, as the right is provided for in the Constitution and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a state party. Therefore, that Mr. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk has been held in custody because of his exercising of the right to express different views and political opinions without using any violent means, could not be construed otherwise, but as an abuse of his rights. This is yet to mention the holding in custody of a number of other persons as a result of the recent political turmoil. Should they have been held in custody because of their attempting to exercise their right to freedom of expression without resorting to any violent means, such an act would also be construed as an abuse of their rights, as well.
2. In addition, the invoking of the Emergency Decree to hold in custody Mr. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and other political prisoners is also tantamount to an attempt to curb citizens’ rights and liberties without any necessary reason since insofar, there has not been enough credible proof to demonstrate that the persons have been involved with inciting the emergency situation, or that such detention could have helped to preempt or prevent any serious criminal activity. In addition, the current situation could no longer be considered an emergency situation. Therefore, it does not prove compelling for the state to continue invoking the Emergency Decree to hold any person in custody. And despite putting the emergency situation notification in place, there are restrictions as to the exercise of the power by the state. In fact, under normal procedure, there are many other ways to deal with the situation that will have led to much less infringement on people’s rights and liberties.
The Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) and Union of Civil Liberties (UCL) would like to tender the following demands to the government;
1. Mr. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and all political prisoners who have been held in custody because they had participated in the demonstration and have not been charged must be released. Should there be any credible reasons and evidence to prove that Mr. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and other persons being held in custody have committed any illegal action, the state can still resort to prosecuting them under the normal Criminal Procedure Code, whereby all persons held in custody have to be pressed with a charge and are fully entitled to all their rights in the justice process. In addition, the presumed innocence principle must be applied. In other word, the suspects shall not be brought to the presence of media during the press conference, nor they be forced to respond to questions from the press. They have the right to remain silent, the right to have a lawyer present during the interrogation, the right to have their cases tried by an independent and impartial tribunal or court and the right to be temporarily released.
2. The Notification of Severe Emergency Situation invoking the Emergency Decree shall be repealed since such a measure authorizes the officials to arbitrarily restrict people’s rights and liberties.
3. The right to freedom to expression of media and people has to be restored. Their right to freedom of expression should be upheld as per the universal principle guaranteeing such a right.