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Freedom of Expression: The Draconian Practice of Thailand

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes below.


“It is increasingly apparent that any party which seeks to threaten the military and the establishment’s political hegemony will not be tolerated.”


The above statement was recently asserted by Francisca Castro, a member of parliament in the Philippines and a member of the group ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). The comment was made in the wake of the Constitutional Court of Thailand’s decision to disband the Future Forward Party, the leading opposition party which seeks democratic and anti-military reform in Thai politics. The court ruling was not a surprise for those who keep abreast of Thai politics. In fact, the Future Forward Party was not the first anti-military party that was dissolved in the last 13 years. Undeniably, however, very few onlookers would have speculated their political career to be so short-lived.


Which begs the question; why was their political career so brief? In one short word: fear.



Despite existing in a deeply repressive political climate, the Future Forward Party has defied expectations and publicly challenged the military party, fearlessly exposing their scandals. Intimidated by their disclosure and overwhelming support, the military party has been believed to do anything in their power to eradicate the Future Forward Party. Any speeches or other expressions made by both political parties or normal citizens could be easily targeted as defying the authority and therefore would be subject to sedition or other severe sentences. The government appears determined to quash any potential opposition to their vision of the country and are not afraid to encroach upon their citizens’ right to speak freely. The sentence facing the anti-military party is not related to freedom of speech, however the ratio decidendi (the rationale for the decision) used by the court proves to be unjustifiable by legal academics throughout the country, including 36 law professors from Thammasat University who lodged their objection. Namely, it is no ordinary case due to the court’s misuse of fundamental legal principles. Disappointingly, the law was distortedly construed to terminate the opposition party allegedly because of their different political ideology.

The criminalisation of opposing groups spreads to everyone regardless of background or creed.

The nature of the government’s persecution of online criticism is arbitrary as they want to create terror and keep Thai citizens silent. The political and social progress of the 1990s has largely been swept away under the current regime.

Thai Constitution has complied with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) but citizens are not permitted to exercise these rights.

The recent acts, including The Cybersecurity Law and Data Protection Act, were enacted last year to increase government surveillance while basic legal safeguards are not provided according to an Amnesty International report. Activists who press on after the passing of these acts are seriously risking life and limb and examples of prosecution are rampant. At least, there are 21 cases the public know of that are criminalised for practising the rights the constitution protects. No form of dissent will be tolerated as long as this government remains in office. Inevitably and tragically, it is the people who will continue to suffer in the course of their ruling.


Many questions arise from this: When will freedom of expression as well as other forms of human rights in Thailand be restored? How many lives will be taken to gain our deserved rights? Would a peaceful call for our basic rights from the citizens be enough? And how far would International organisations go to help restore human rights in Thailand should they employ measures at their disposal?


The answers are not so easy to come by.


Sami Kemmachat

Feature Writer

International Law


SOURCES


-Amnesty international , 'Thailand 2019' (Amnesty International , 31 December 2019) <https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/thailand/report-thailand/> accessed 19 February 2020


-AMY Gunia, 'A Thai Opposition Party That Pushed for Democratic Reform Has Just Been Disbanded' (Time , 21 October 2019)


<https://time.com/5788470/thailand-future-forward-party-disbanded/> accessed 22 February 2020


-Human rights watch , 'To speak out is dangerous ' (Human Rights Watch , 24 October 2019) <https://www.hrw.org/report/2019/10/24/speak-out-dangerous/criminalization-peaceful-expression-thailand> accessed 20 February 2020


-Ilaw, '“รับบริจาคเกิน 10 ล้าน” ไม่มีโทษยุบพรรค' (ILaw, 22 February 2020)

<https://www.khaosodenglish.com/politics/2020/02/21/future-forward-party-found-guilty-disbanded-by-court/> accessed 22 February 2020


-Katherine Gerson, 'Thai Junta Shows No Signs of Halting Assault on Human Rights' (The Diplomat Magazine, 2 June 2018) <https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/thai-junta-shows-no-signs-of-halting-assault-on-human-rights/> accessed 21 February 2020


-Tappanai Boonbandit, 'FUTURE FORWARD PARTY FOUND GUILTY, DISBANDED BY COURT' (Khaosod English, 21 February 2019) <https://www.khaosodenglish.com/politics/2020/02/21/future-forward-party-found-guilty-disbanded-by-court/> accessed 22 February 2020


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