BANGKOK: An order by Thailand’s junta giving sweeping police powers to soldiers is part of the “steady erosion of human rights protections”, campaigners said Tuesday, calling for the law to be rescinded.
Last week the junta government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha issued an executive order awarding all soldiers ranked sub-lieutenant or higher the power to detain suspects for up to a week for a raft of different crimes.
The military said the order was necessary to follow through on their vow to crack down on “mafia figures”, adding there were not enough police officers to do the job.
But the move has been criticized by rights groups who say it is a new judicial power grab by a military government that has clamped down on dissent since seizing power just under two years ago.
In a joint statement released Tuesday, six groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists, condemned the move.
“We have observed a steady erosion of human rights protections in Thailand since the military coup of 22 May 2014 and this order signifies another jarring movement in the same direction,” said Wilder Tayler, secretary general of the ICJ.
The comments were echoed by Brad Adams, Asia Director at HRW.
“Instead of paving the way for a return to democratic rule, the Thai junta has broadened its powers to do almost anything it wants, including committing abuses with total impunity,” he said.
Prayut made the order under Section 44, a controversial power he granted himself allowing him to issue any executive order in the name of national security.
Under the terms published in the Royal Gazette last week, soldiers can detain suspects without arrest warrants as well as seize assets, suspend financial transactions and bar suspects from traveling abroad.
The order also says soldiers are not covered by laws monitoring police abuses, effectively handing them immunity from prosecution.
Analysts say the order is the latest effort by the junta to chisel away at the powers of the police.
Prayut seized power in May 2014 promising to tackle corruption and end the kingdom’s damaging cycle of street protests, coups and toppled governments.
But critics say the move was a power grab by arch-royalist generals jostling for power as the reign of the country’s venerated and ageing King Bhumibol Adulyadej enters its twilight years.