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ICJ and TLHR call for Thai bar association elections to proceed, without military government interference, and in a fair and impartial manner

Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) must end its interference in the elections of the president and committee members of the Lawyers Council of Thailand (LCT), the ICJ and Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), said today.
 
The LCT in turn must ensure the elections are conducted in a fair and impartial manner.
 
“International standards explicitly prohibit external interference in the elections of the executive body of a lawyers’ professional association by its members, and the association’s leadership must ensure that such elections are conducted in a fair and impartial manner” said Matt Pollard, the Head of the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. “Ensuring the independence and democratic representation of the legal profession is essential to safeguarding human rights and the rule of law, especially in the current circumstances of military rule in Thailand.”
 
On 29 February 2016, Mr Wichien Choobtaisong, a representative of the electoral group of the current LCT President, Mr. Dej-udom Krairit, wrote to the NCPO “seeking permission” to hold meetings and campaigns for the LCT’s regularly-scheduled elections, referring to the NCPO’s ban on political gatherings of more than five persons.
 
On 16 March 2016, the NCPO replied, stating that the elections “contradict” the ban on political gatherings, which “must apply equally to all groups and sectors in the interest of maintaining national security during the transition period,” and taking the position that that the elections must accordingly be postponed with the current committee continuing its term until elections are held. The NCPO’s reply also notes it received a letter from the LCT on 14 December 2015, which the ICJ and TLHR have not seen.
 
In its letter, the NCPO referred to NCPO Announcement 7/2014, which bans the political gathering of more than five persons (Announcement 7/2014 was later replaced by Order 3/2015). The ICJ reiterates that these arbitrary and unjustified orders and announcements should be repealed, and calls on the NCPO, in any event, to immediately withdraw its letter of 16 March, replacing it with written confirmation that the LCT elections will be able to proceed as scheduled, without external interference.
 
The LCT must then put in place procedures to ensure the elections proceed as scheduled and in a fair and impartial manner.
 
“Since the military took power, we have seen a marked increase in the number of individuals requiring legal aid for sensitive and political cases,” said Yaowalak Anuphan, the Head of TLHR and member of the LCT. “In this environment, it is even more essential that the Lawyers Council of Thailand is able to exercise its functions without external interference and that everyone has effective and equal access to the legal services of lawyers.”