The Thai government declared a state of emergency today, after violent clashes between pro-government demonstrators and the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) outside Bangkok’s Government House left one person dead and more than 40 injured.
Amnesty International said that the Thai government should remove restrictions on free speech contained in the emergency decree and has urged all political leaders, including those of PAD, to respect human rights. “The Thai government should follow international guidelines clarifying that even under a state of emergency people should have the right to voice their opinions on all issues affecting them – including on the emergency decree itself – and to articulate viewpoints that differ from those of the government or groups they oppose”, said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s researcher on Thailand.
In addition, the government should make sure that the decree’s restriction on freedom of assembly are limited by what is absolutely necessary to protect the security of the public only in those areas in Bangkok most affected by the ongoing protests and stand-off among the various political groups. “These demonstrations and counter-demonstrations show that many Thai people are frustrated with the lack of respect for the rule of law and the lack of accountability. So what is ultimately needed is greater accountability, upholding the rule of law, and more respect for civil and political rights,” Zawacki said.
Background PAD members occupied the state-run National Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT) television station on 26 August and thousands continue to occupy Government House, which includes the prime minister’s office, since that day. Incidents of violence occurred on 29 August at both Government House and the Metropolitan Police Headquarters, and an explosion occurred outside a police guardhouse on 1 September. Dozens of protesters and police have been injured, and nearly 100 protesters detained. Section 9(3) of Thailand’s Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situation (2005) prohibits press releases, the distribution or dissemination of letters, publications or any other means of communication containing texts which may instigate fear amongst the people, or is intended to distort information or create understandings of the emergency situation to the extent of affecting the security of state or public order or good morals of the people of the entire Kingdom. The Thai government has not invoked all provisions of the emergency decree refraining from, among other orders, imposing a curfew on Bangkok. It has also indicated that it would remain in force only as long as necessary.