For Immediate Release: September 20, 2006
New York – On the night of September 19, tanks entered the streets of Bangkok and a group calling itself the Democratic Reform Council announced the suspension of the constitution, parliament, senate, and the Constitutional Court. The coup leaders instituted martial law throughout the country, allowing authorities to ban gatherings, censor the media, and detain people for up to seven days without charge.
“The recent coup in Thailand must not be an excuse for the country’s leadership to ignore its human rights obligations,” said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. “Any efforts to revise the constitution should not weaken existing human rights guarantees.”
“In the short term, it is essential that the rights of Thai citizens are protected,” added Byrnes. “In the long term, human rights conditions will depend on a peaceful resolution of the crisis and a return to civilian rule validated by free and fair elections.”
Even before the current crisis, the Thaksin administration’s increasingly authoritarian policies had fueled political tensions and undermined progress on human rights in Thailand. The recent Human Rights First report, Losing Ground, describes human rights abuses related to national security measures, including martial law, taken by the Thai government in conflict areas of southern Thailand.