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UN concerned on Thailand mounting constraints on free speech, call for prompt return to civilian rule.

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights :   Ravina Shamdasani
 
Location: Geneva
 
Thailand
 
We are very concerned about the continued, mounting constraints on the democratic space in Thailand, and call for a prompt return to civilian rule. Following the military coup in May 2014, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression and opinion and assembly have been in place through the use of criminal and military laws and orders. Leading up to this month's Constitutional Referendum, these measures actually increased. Overall, at least 1,300 people have been summoned, arrested or charged, and 1,629 civilians have been tried before the military courts.
 
Since June, at least 115 people have been arrested or charged under military orders, criminal codes and the Constitution Referendum Act for expressing their opinion on the draft constitution or reporting human rights violations, including torture. Twelve individuals arrested in Chiang Mai Province in late July and a student activist who was arrested on 6 August remain in detention. The remaining have been released, but remain under investigation or have been charged.
 
We urge Thailand to immediately drop all charges against political activists and human rights defenders, and to release those jailed for voicing dissent on the draft charter in the run-up to the referendum. We also call on the authorities to suspend the use of military courts and military orders in cases involving civilians. These measures are now urgently needed as Thailand moves towards an election in 2017 aimed at restoring democracy, as proposed in the military government's roadmap.
 
The election next year represents an opportunity for Thailand to meet the commitment it made at the UN Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review in May 2016 to fully respect the freedom of expression, and therefore guarantee a more inclusive and participatory process that involves all political parties, civil society and the media in an open and non-threatening environment. 

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