Thailand lifts state of emergency, what now?By Bangkok Pundit Dec 22, 2010 7:00AM UTC
The Thai government agreed to lift a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces Wednesday, eight months after it was imposed during sprawling and sometimes violent anti-government protests in the capital.However, the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will retain extraordinary powers, including the right to hold suspects without charge for up to a week, under a new security act that it says is needed to control anti-government groups.Deputy Government spokesman Supachai Jaisamut said the current security situation no longer justified the strict control imposed during April riots by Red Shirt protesters, who camped for weeks in a zone fortified by wooden stakes and tires in the heart of Bangkok.But the government has said it feels that Thailand’s continuing political turmoil justified another strict, though less powerful, security law.“The Cabinet has decided to lift the emergency decree … and replace it with the Internal Security Act,” Supachai said.…The Internal Security Act allows authorities to hold suspects without charge for up to seven days. It also allows for curfews and restrictions on freedom of movement in situations deemed harmful to national security.
BP: It should be noted that the state of emergency has not been lifted in the Deep South so what we have is a return to pre-April 2010 where we had the Internal Security Act (ISA). Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn of the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University has summarized the ISA as follows:
If you look at the application of these laws they are interlinked with many more laws and I will illustrate in a moment that the enunciation of the Internal Security Act is actually linked with the use of thirteen other laws on the books opening up the door to the armed authorities to interlink and use thirteen other laws as linked with the Internal Security Act.
…Fourthly, the Internal Security Act which is more recent, 2551, only three years ago. Basically what we worry about is many of the temporary provisions, or allegedly temporary, of the state of emergency decree have now become incorporated into the ISA, part of permanency. In other words, limitations on basic rights which are manifested by the state of emergency are now entrenched in a permanent law known as the Internal Security Act. You will find in this law there is a definition of national security as based upon the risk or threat notion, ‘pai’ is there, particularly in Article 3. The various limitations as you will find in the emergency decree on freedom of association, assembly, communications, and the law can also be used to send people to training which is basically ‘re-education’ in various camps for six months if you are a suspect. In order to get oneself off the blacklist as a suspect and even though the law says this is subject to court order and consent from the person concerned, in pressured circumstances it is difficult for a person to really consent. They go to re-education because they want to get off the blacklist even though its not really consensual is one of the issues today.
BP: Not sure that AP is right that there is a provision in the ISA to detain suspects for seven days – see a translation of the Act here (PDF) and the ICJ summary of the Act here (PDF) where page 89 states that the ISA includes “the removal of exceptional detention powers on suspicion of wrongdoing” and page 91 specifically on arrest). AHRC look at the emergency laws and their powers to detain people here and they do no make any mention that ISA has the power to detain people without charge. BP was always under the impression that a previous draft of the ISA gave power to detain people without charge, but the final draft and the Act did not. The biggest complaint about the ISA is the training (re-education?) camps for minor offenders under Section 21 (yes, screw seven days detention, you have 180 days here).
The real power of the ISA is in Section 18:
Section 18. To facilitate the prevention, suppression, eradication, and solution or mitigation of an occurrence under Section 15, the Director with the approval of the Cabinet shall have the power to issue regulations as follows:
(1) to have relevant state officials implement any action, or suspend any action;(2) to prohibit entry or exit at a locality, building, or designated area during its operating hours, except with the permission of a competent official or being an exempted person;(3) to prohibit exit from dwelling places within a designated time;(4) to prohibit the carrying of weapons outside dwelling places;(5) to prohibit the use of routes or vehicles or to prescribe conditions on the use of routes or vehicles;(6) to order persons to perform or suspend any action in connection with electronic equipment in order to guard against danger to life, limb, or property of the peopleOrders under paragraph 1 may prescribe principles, time period, or other conditions, and the aforesaid prescriptions must not create unreasonable inconvenience for the people
BP: You will note the important requirement of Cabinet approval hence no power for the military to issue orders banning things they don’t like without any civilian buy-in. Like with the state of emergency, ISA is just a shell which provides for the issuing of regulations. It all depends on how strict the regulations will be as they can be very broad or very narrow. Will the ISA be applied nationwide? Or just in Bangkok and surrounding provinces? Punishment for breaching a regulation in Section 18 is one year in prison (Section 24). Also, see this post for some other comments on the ISA.
It is really wait-and-see to see how strict the regulations issue are? BP does not see any direct provision for censorship of speech and it would be a stretch to use Section 18(6). Will this arbitrary banning of websites without review cease?