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Civil case filed over the PM and related officials for freedom restriction

The people’s movement against the drafting of laws that undermine freedom of association calls upon the civil court to stop general Prayut Chan-o-cha and the other five parties from stifling public assembly.

The plaintiffs give the media an interview at Ratchadapisek Court.

At 09.00 on 26 May 2022, Nimit Tienudom, Thanaphon Wichan and Pornthip Sahyomchai, representatives of the People’s Movement Against the Drafting of Laws that Undermine Freedom of Association, staged a protest to demand that the Prime Minister and his cabinet shelve a proposed Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations, a vaguely-worded bill that would place unnecessary constraints upon freedom of association as enshrined in the Constitution.  

They also filed a case with the Civil Court to stop the government from enforcing existing laws to curb freedom of association. Defendants named in the case include: General Prayut Chan-o-cha; General Chalermpol Srisawasdi; the Office of the Prime Minister; the Royal Thai Armed Forces; the Ministry of Finance; and the Royal Thai Police. 

The court has been asked to:

  1. Repeal several regulations issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) as follows: No. 15, Article 3; no. 37, Article 2; and Announcement No. 14 of the Emergency Situation Response Chief which bans public gatherings.
  2. Order the defendants and concerned agencies to execute their duties in a manner that places an importance on public safety and public freedom, including the plaintiffs’ right to protest.
  3. Order a compensation payment of 1.8 million baht for damages resulting from the issuing of unlawful regulations which abrogate public rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and freedom of opinion.

The plaintiffs contend that with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, the regulations in question have been used excessively.   Rather than being imposed to stop the spread of the virus in manner commensurate with the public health situation in Thailand, they have been deployed to restrict the rights and freedoms of the plaintiffs and general public.   

The plaintiffs note that although the Covid-19 pandemic is now largely under control and preparations are underway to reclassify the virus as endemic, the ban on public assembly remains, indicating that state prohibitions have more to do with stifling the exercise of freedom of expression rather preventing the spread of disease. 

In addition to noting that Emergency Decree regulations have been arbitrarily exercised, the plaintiffs also contend that the laws are incompatible with various provisions in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand BE 2560 (2017). The regulations appear to violate, restrict and infringe upon the constitutional rights and freedoms of the plaintiffs and general public.

Such rights are essential in a democratic system which embraces and tolerates dissent. For this reason, they warrant protection.   As a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Thailand is also obliged to protect fundamental rights and freedoms. 

The plaintiffs argue that the government has deprived them of their right to freedom of assembly, as guaranteed by the Constitution and Thailand’s international obligations. Instead of allowing peaceful protests to continue, the authorities have blocked access to public spaces in an unlawful manner with large objects like shipping containers, cars, buses, train cars, fuel containers, barbed wire, and other items.

This transpired again on 24 May 2022 when the plaintiffs and members of the public gathered to exercise their right to freedom of assembly by marching from the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to Government House.  Barbed wire and barriers were unlawfully installed to block public access. 

On 30 May 2022, the People’s Movement Against the Drafting of Laws that Undermine Freedom of Association has marched towards Government House again. It asked the court to issue an injunction to suspend the invocation of regulations and announcements which prohibit lawful public assembly and to prevent the authorities from blocking the road access and placing barriers to impede their march, pending the final verdict in this case.

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