University investigates staff for opposing junta’s power

Mahidol University has censured its human rights institute for demanding the junta cease its use of Article 44. The demand came after a follower of the Dhammakaya sect committed suicide to protest the junta’s ongoing harassment of the temple.   
 
Late on the night of Saturday 25 February, Mahidol University's Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) published a statement just hours after the suicide of Anawat Thanacharoennat, a Dhammakaya follower who hanged himself to protest the junta’s use of Article 44 to besiege Wat Dhammakaya and other actions.
 
The statement urged the junta to immediately abolish the use of Article 44, the article in Thailand’s Interim Constitution that grants the junta absolute power.
 
The IHRP stated that the junta has used its absolute power in an arbitrary manner such as dismissing government officials, controlling local administration and seizing Wat Dhammakaya. The institute sees such use of Article 44 as the junta’s attempt to violate the rule of law. 
 
“The use of Article 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution...is a use of authoritarian power and a violation of the rule of law. Although the use of the Article is constitutional, it lacks checks and balances and legal legitimacy,” read the statement.
 
IHRP Advisor and former Director Gothom Arya later said that the statement concerned the use of Article 44 in general and was not motivated by any particular case.
 
The following day, Mahidol University (MU) published a statement denying involvement with the IHRP. 
 
The statement denounced the institute for using academic freedom to defame the university. It urged the IHRP to cease their campaign and also confirmed it will appoint a committee to investigate whether the IHRP statement violates university disciplinary regulations.
 
On 15 February, the junta declared Dhammakaya temple a “controlled zone” by invoking Article 44 to grant security officers the authority to search buildings, make arrests and cut off water or electricity supplies as they see fit.
 
The order facilitates attempts to arrest Dhammachayo, the spiritual leader of the Dhammakaya sect. He is alleged to have accepted more than a billion baht in donations from the president of a credit union who is now in prison for embezzlement. 
 
 
Dhammakaya monks and followers pray for Anawat Thanacharoennat. The banner reads “He died because Article 44 harasses Buddhism. The NCPO must be responsible. Pray for the Buddhist martyr.” (Photo from Khaosod English)
 
An unofficial translation of the IHRP statement provided by Prachatai
 
Government’s use of Section 44 of the Interim Constitution 2557 (2014), 4th amendment 2560 (2017) is a use of authoritarian power and violation of rule of law
 
During a past month, the government has used Section 44 of the Interim Constitution 2557 (2014), 4th amendment 2560 (2017) for the following cases; 
 
Order 4/2560 : Reorganizing the component of the Board of Investment according to the NCPO’s announcement no. 105/2557
 
Order 5/2560 : Measures to authorize power to designate controlled area in order to enhance law enforcement. 
 
Order 6/2560 : Appointment of the Head of Pattaya City Municipality
 
Order 9/2560 : Implementing community’s housing development project along Lad Prao Canal and Prem Prachakorn Canal to solve public canal intrusion issue
 
Order 10/2560 : Administrative readjustment  in the National Railways of Thailand
 
Order 11/2560 : Controlling the procurement of government agencies.
 
Order 12/2560 : Assigning government positions and appointment of government officers 
 
The Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies has opinions as follows; 
 
1. The use of Section 44 of the Interim Constitution 2557 (2014), 4th amendment 2560 (2017) in cases mentioned above is unnecessary and has no urgency to use the special power. And in many cases, other responsible government agencies can still function under exisiting laws and regulations. 
 
2. The use of Section 44 of the Interim Constitution 2557 (2014), 4th amendment 2560 (2017) is a use of authoritarian power and a violation of the rule of law. Although the use of the Article is constitutional, it lacks checks and balances and legal legitimacy, and
 
3. We request the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order to stop using Section 44 of the Interim Constitution 2557 (2014), 4th amendment 2560 (2017).
 
Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies
25 February, 2017