Thai government urged to drop measures restricting public gatherings, NGOs

The Campaign for People’s Democracy (CPD), a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting democracy and human rights, has called on the Thai government to repeal the emergency decree and laws restricting public gatherings and NGO activities.

In a statement issued yesterday (Sunday), the CPD said such laws aim to centralize state power, while denying people’s rights to peaceful public assembly and to form an association, foundation or organization for public interests in complete disregard of their rights as enshrined in all constitutions and international treaties to which Thailand is a signatory.

The CPD expressed its strong support for representatives of NGOs, civil society and grassroots networks who have held a rally outside the UN building on Ratchadamnoen Road in Bangkok since last week to protest against the bill.

The CPD said the emergency decree, which was imposed at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic more than two years ago to contain the spread of the disease, has also been used to restrict political gatherings.

As the COVID-19 situation in Thailand improves, the CPD says the emergency decree, which is due to end on July 31 pending further extensions, becomes unnecessary and should be removed.

A group of Civil Network representatives gathered at Government House this morning to protest against the Bill, which is due to be considered by Cabinet tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a civil society campaign to solicit public support in opposition to the bill is underway, via Change.org, with more than 14,000 signatures collected so far.

Activists point out that more than 200,000 organizations, such as associations, foundations, institutes, voluntary groups, cooperatives and trade unions, can be included in the category of non-profit organizations and, as such, would be subject to strict scrutiny under the controversial bill, which is vague, broadly based and ill-defined, if it becomes law.

Penalties in the bill are not commensurate with the nature of the offences, such as a maximum fine of 500,000 baht or a daily fine of 10,000 baht for refusing to cease certain prohibited activities, the CPD claims.

The best chance to stop this, campaigners say, is now, when public hearings are held to gauge public opinion on the bill, by signing the petition to support this campaign, which will then be submitted, with the signatures, to Cabinet for consideration.

Sara H. Byrd