Human rights activists call for end to ban on public gatherings

Amid calls for more political freedom ahead of next year’s election, a group of human rights defenders has urged the authorities to terminate the ban on public assembly.
On 19 December, representatives from various civil society organisations submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court, calling for the termination of the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 3/2015.
According to Article 6 of the order, military officers have the power to summon any individual and detain them for up to seven days without a court warrant. Article 12 also prohibits public gatherings of five people or more. Those who violate the order face up to six months in jail, a fine of up to 10,000 baht, or both. 
Rangsiman Rome, an activist from the Democracy Restoration Group, stated that freedom of assembly is protected under both the 2017 Constitution and the junta’s 2014 Interim Charter. Yet the junta still uses Order 3/2015 to suppress its critics. 
“This petition will be proof of whether the 2017 Constitution really protects the rights and freedoms of the people, as the Constitution Drafting Committee advertised during the referendum campaign,” said Rangsiman.
The group petitioned the Constitutional Court to rule whether the order is unconstitutional. 
On 10 November, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a legal official from the Pheu Thai Party, also petitioned the Constitutional Court to rule whether the junta’s prolonging of Order 3/2015 is constitutional. He said that the junta is obstructing politicians and political parties from doing their work, which is a breach of the Organic Act on Political Parties as well as the 2017 Charter.
Nimit Tienudom, from the People’s Health Systems Movement, stated that the junta’s various efforts to amend laws on healthcare over the past year have made it difficult for ordinary people to access universal healthcare.
Whenever Nimit’s group tried to challenge the amendments, the military used Order 3/2105 to suppress the movement. He concludes that the order is a threat to civil society. 
From a legal perspective, Yaowalak Anuphan, head of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, points out that Order 3/2105 has granted security officers absolute power without any checks and balances.
“The NCPO Order 3/2105 has interfered with the justice system since 2015,” stated Yaowalak. “We insist that no power can be unchecked, including the power of Section 44 [of the Interim Charter], and this petition is one way of checking the use of power.”
Human rights defenders submit their petition to the Constitutional Court