AI criticizes junta’s Public Assembly Bill

The junta-sponsored Public Assembly Bill should be amended to conform to Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said Amnesty International (AI) Thailand.

AI Thailand on Wednesday issued a statement urging the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to amend several articles in the bill taking into consideration Thailand’s obligation to observe Articles 21 and 22 (on freedom of assembly and association) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has signed and ratified.

The rubber stamp parliament voted unanimously to pass the first reading of the bill on 26 February. The law is pending the second reading. 

AI Thailand is seriously concerned about the penalties facing protesters or rally organizers who fail to comply with the regulations on assembly, the statement said.

For example, if an assembly is held without at least 24 hours’ notice to the authorities before the protest commences and the authorities do not relax this rule, or the protest does not end within the agreed period, or moves to another venue without notification to the authorities, the protesters face fines of up to 10,000 baht. 

The criminal penalties imposed upon the organizers and participants of peaceful rallies will affect the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of association, said AI. 

AI cited a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association which states that it should be assumed that any protester has the intention to hold a peaceful rally and that regulations on prior notice should apply only with large gatherings or when there is reason to believe that there will be chaos.

Article 16, for example, which stipulates that no moving assembly is allowed between 6 pm and 6 am, unless allowed by the authorities, is too restrictive of the right to peaceful assembly as stipulated in the ICCPR, according to AI.

In cases of failing to give notice of a planned assembly, the organisation urged the Thai appointed lawmakers to remove the criminal and civil penalties, whether jail terms or fines. Moreover, the penalties for the actions of rally organizers or protesters which are the consequences of peaceful assembly should be cut. Criminal laws should be used instead.

AI also proposed that the NLA reduce the number of regulations restricting on the right to assembly. For example, the regulation on prior notice about a planned rally may be restricted to only a really large assembly or when a rally is expected to create a certain level of disturbance.

AI also called for the Thai state to protect human rights and lift martial law.

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