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Rights group calls for end to ‘failed’ emergency

The military should withdraw armed soldiers from BTS Skytrain and MRT subway stations and lift immediately the emergency decree which has been imposed for nearly six months. The prolonged decree and soldiers' presence is militarising Thai society and creating fear among those who oppose the government, said Patchanee Kumnak, a committee member of Social Move, a fringe group of Thai leftists.

As most local human rights groups and the National Human Rights Commission have failed to put pressure on the government, the group decided to issue its own statement on Sunday" nearly seven months after the state of emergency was imposed in Bangkok and beyond.

"We concluded that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had no clear policy on the matter, including the issue of detained [red-shirt] political prisoners. They do not stand alongside a majority of the people. They do not defend the rights of political expression of red shirts and appear to be more concerned about the government's stability. The same can be said of many local human rights NGOs," Patchanee told The Nation.

Patchanee said the emergency decree has failed to bring about a political solution to the conflict. "It only reinforced the sense of fear," she said, adding that the government is exploiting the emergency decree for its own political gain while soldiers' presence at public mass transit systems are having a negative effect on democracy as it thwarts political expression.

"They should not look at the people as their enemies," she added.

Army Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesperson for the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) said a survey was conducted by CRES and showed that passengers "feel safe" in the presence of armed soldiers at BTS and MRT stations in Bangkok.

"Nevertheless, I'll inform my commanders as to how it may result in negative impacts," Sansern said. The colonel added however that lifting of the emergency decree would be a decision made by the Cabinet and not CRES.

Meanwhile, national human rights commissioner Nirand Pitakwatchara" queried about demands by Social Move and criticism against the independent body" admitted the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) may not have regularly followed up on demands to have the emergency decree lifted.

"It must be admitted that we have not followed up [on the issue]. We must follow the development of the government."

Nirand insisted however that the position of the rights body is crystal clear. "We reiterate that the government should lift the emergency so it would lead to a climate of reconciliation. The CRES should also be dissolved and a government body tasked to look into CRES conduct as to whether it did things right or not," said Nirand, adding however it was up to the government to decide whether the decree should be lifted.

Nirand, who chaired NHRC's political rights subcommittee, said that the commission had been working closely with the Department of Protection and Promotion of Human Rights and the Law Council in seeking bail for remaining ordinary red shirts jailed since May 19.

Progress had been made with some detainees being granted bail.



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