Thailand: Martial Law must not become “blueprint for human rights violations”

Authorities in Thailand must ensure that human rights are protected and respected, following the imposition of Martial Law today, which grants the army sweeping powers and imposes tight restrictions on key human rights and has already led to several media outlets being taken off air, Amnesty International said.

“The declaration of Martial Law decree must not be a blueprint for human rights violations. It is crucial that the military shows the utmost restraint and fully respects Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Director.

Martial Law, which was unilaterally declared by the Thai army today, suspends or restricts a number of human rights.

The military now has powers to detain people without a warrant for up to one week, to seize property, and to search people or property without a court order. It also provides the military with impunity from claims for compensation.

Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the army has already used its powers under the decree to impose sweeping restrictions on freedom of expression in violation of Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law.

The army today prohibited media from reporting stories “detrimental to national security”, and has taken at least ten TV stations off air, most of them linked to pro- or anti-government groups.

“The military’s moves to impose tight restrictions on independent media are deeply worrying. National security must not be used as a pretext to silence the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, and we urge the military to give media in Thailand the space to carry out their legitimate work,” said Richard Bennett.

“The situation in Thailand is tense and volatile, and any attempts to curb the right to peaceful protest and other human rights have the potential to inflame matters even more. It is crucial that political leaders on both sides make it crystal clear to their supporters that any human rights abuses are unacceptable.”

Amnesty International also urges the army to make it clear that military personnel, including commanders, will not be exempted from prosecution for human rights violations committed when carrying out their duties.