Thai Junta’s lawmakers pass bill on public demonstrations

Thailand’s lawmakers gave a final approval on 1 May to a bill regulating public assemblies, which will create petty hindrances to public demonstrations.  

According to the Nation Breaking News, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Friday completed the third reading on the Public Assembly Bill.

158 members of the NLA voted in favour of the bill while four members did not vote. None of the NLA members voted against the draft bill, the Nation reported.

The bill will be enacted as soon as it is announced in the Royal Gazette.

In brief, the Public Assembly Bill states that organisers of any demonstration must ‘notify’ the police about the planned rally, where it will take place and when it will start and end, at least 24 hours before the rally commences.  If the assembly organizers want to extend the assembly, they must notify the authorities 24 hours in advance. Otherwise, the rally organizers may ask the authorities to relax the rule.

Moreover, certain venues are prohibited as rally sites under the bill and the police have the authority to regulate and oversee rallies.

Jantajira Iammayura, a Thammasat University law lecturer and a member of Nitirat, said the bill does not respect the people’s right to peaceful assembly, guaranteed by Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Thailand is a state party, because it creates petty legal hindrances that would be convenient for making assemblies unlawful.

“Technical failures, such as failing to notify the police within the deadline, can overrule the main conditions which are assembling peacefully and without weapons”, said Jantajira. “This is absolutely unconstitutional and contradicts the ICCPR.”

Article 21 of the ICCPR reads “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Sriprai Nonsee, a leading member of the Rangsit and Area Labour Union Group, a network of labour unions in Rangsit and nearby districts in central Pathum Thani Province, said the law will be another hindrance to Thai labour’s rights to welfare.

“Rallies and protests are very important to a union. No way can labour get anything without a protest. This bill will obstruct our calls for a better life and welfare.” Sripai said.

She believed that in the end this bill will be selectively enforced, especially on the poor. By having to notify about the rally, the planned rally will be obstructed.