The implementation of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situation as a Covid-19 response has concerning impacts in Thailand. ARTICLE 19 and its partners in civil society have called on ambassadors to urge Thai authorities to stop all persecution under the Emergency Decree.
Purportedly to combat the Covid-19 outbreak, Thailand had been operating under a state of emergency since 26 March 2020, with the executive government having extended the declaration of an emergency situation 19 times since then. During this period, a series of regulations containing several Emergency Decree measures have been periodically announced pursuant to Emergency Decree powers. These include several vague and overbroad restrictions on the rights to freedom of movement, expression, peaceful assembly, and public participation.
On 29 September 2022, Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha issued an announcement titled ‘Repeal of the Declaration of Emergency Situations in the Kingdom and other Relevant Announcements, Regulations, and Orders’ (hereafter ‘Announcement’). This Announcement – which came into force on 1 October 2022 – effectively repealed the declaration of an emergency situation prompted by the spread of Covid-19 around the country, and at least 47 regulations, announcements and/or orders issued under the Emergency Decree, as well as announcements and orders made under other specific laws with the stated intent of combatting the outbreak. In total, the Emergency Decree was in force for more than two and a half years.
Over the past two years, there have been numerous political and other protests. Among the demands typically made by political protesters are: (1) the resignation of the prime minister and a new election; (2) amendments to the 2017 Constitution; (3) no retaliation against or prosecution of activists peacefully exercising their human rights; and (4) reforms to the institution of the monarchy. The rise of multiple political groups created challenges in balancing competing objectives, between controlling the spread of Covid-19 and respecting and protecting the human rights of everyone, including to freedom of peaceful assembly.
We have reviewed, assessed and made recommendations in relation to the implementation of Thailand’s Emergency Decree in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Our analysis has revealed that a number of the legal and practical responses undertaken by the Thai authorities purportedly to address public emergencies in the past two years have not complied with rule of law principles and international legal obligations. In particular, bringing criminal charges against and prosecuting persons under the Emergency Decree for simply exercising their rights to expression and peaceful assembly could not be considered necessary and proportionate even during the pandemic; moreover, it did not adhere to the principle of legality as required by international human rights law, and was inconsistent with the legitimate purpose of ensuring the protection of public health.