For Immediate Release: October 4, 2006
NEW YORK – In an open letter to newly-appointed interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and the leaders of the September 19 coup, Human Rights First called on the authorities to end martial law, restore freedom of the press and association, and protect all rights formerly enshrined in the abolished 1997 constitution.
In the letter, Human Rights First expresses regret at the decision to abolish the constitution, the legislature, and the Constitutional Court. It also notes with concern restrictions on gatherings of more than five people and expanded powers to censor print and electronic media. Hundreds of community radio stations have been shut down, as well as websites featuring political news and discussion.
The letter states, “The leaders of the coup, now constituted as the Council for National Security (CNS), have assumed sweeping powers, and are not subject to essential checks and balances on their power. We urge you to act immediately to revoke martial law, lift restrictions on civil and political rights, and address weaknesses in the interim constitution.”
Coup leaders promised to appoint a civilian prime minister and issue an interim constitution within two weeks of the coup, and did so. The 39-article constitution focuses on the process for drafting a new constitution, but also includes a broad statement protecting the rights, liberties, and human dignity. But Human Rights First warned that the interim constitution was a step backwards from the 1997 charter, and does not appear to protect the rights of refugees and other non-citizens.
After more than two years of bloodshed in Thailand’s volatile southern provinces, the letter also called on authorities to change failed policies that have worsened the violence. The new Prime Minister has identified the conflict as a priority.
Letter to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont
Letter to General Sonthi Boonyaratglin