Activists challenge ban on public gathering

Three activists filed a complaint with the Civil Court today (5 October) against the Prime Minister and military commander-in-chief, asking the Court to repeal the 15th order under the Emergency Decree, which bans public gatherings, on the grounds that the order is a violation of basic rights and freedoms.

From left: Athapol Buapat, Chumaporn Taengkliang, and Yingcheep Atchanont (Photo by Chana La)

iLaw Manager Yingcheep Atchanont, Feminist’s Liberation Front Thailand activist Chumaporn Taengkliang, and activist Athapol Buapat went to the Civil Court on Ratchadapisek Road this morning (5 October), along with lawyers from the Human Right Lawyers Alliance, to file a complaint against Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, military commander-in-chief Gen Chalermpol Srisawat, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, the Ministry of Finance, and the Royal Thai Police Headquarters, requesting the court to repeal the ban on public gatherings under the 15th order under the Emergency Decree.  

The three activists, who are facing charges of violating the Emergency Decree for participating in the 24 March 2021 protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection, are also suing for compensation of 4.5 million baht, as well as asking the court for a temporary injunction suspending the gathering ban until the court issue a ruling on their request.

The Alliance said that the order, which prohibits “gatherings or activities in crowded places, or any action which incites unrest,” as well as several other subsequent orders prohibiting gatherings or activities which risk the spread of Covid-19, have been aimed at limiting people’s freedoms and not at dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak. These orders are therefore unconstitutional and not in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). There is also no evidence that past gatherings have resulted in any outbreak.

The Alliance also noted that the 24 March 2021 protest was a peaceful protest by unarmed protesters which took place in an open space. Protests are normal in a democracy, and the authorities can still require necessary disease control measures, such as face masks, temperature checkpoints, and distancing measures. A ban on public gatherings is therefore not necessary and is an excessive limitation on the people’s freedoms, which is not lawful. The fact that participants in the protest are facing prosecution for violation of the Emergency Decree also shows that the ban on gatherings was intended to limit political expression and the use of freedom of assembly to criticize the government.

Waddao said that freedom of assembly should never be halted, even for a second, and that today’s lawsuit is the first step to showing that protesters will not be surrendering to unjust laws. She also said that Gen Prayut must show responsibility to young people who are speaking out. Meanwhile, Athapol said that no one has ever caught Covid-19 from going to protests, and that he has never seen the order actually used to stop the disease. He also said that freedom of assembly is enshrined in the Constitution. The order is therefore a violation of people’s rights, so they have to sue to have it repealed.

The court accepted the activists’ complaint. According to the Alliance, a hearing has been scheduled for 31 January 2022. Following an urgent inquiry in the afternoon, the court scheduled a hearing on the temporary injunction request on Friday (8 October) at 13.30.

Advertisements

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: service@prachatai.com, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”