Thailand’s Military Will Still Try Some 500 Ongoing Cases Against Civilians
BANGKOK – In a surprise move ahead of a planned visit to the United Nations in New York next week, army chief turned Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-O-Cha said military courts would be phased out for civilians.
However Thailand’s Military will still try some 500 ongoing cases against civilians, a senior junta official said today, a day after the regime announced an end to the controversial practice.
Since the coup, breaches of a tough royal defamation law and other national security crimes have been punishable in military courts, presided over by a bench of officers.
Rights groups cautiously welcomed the order, which does not cover ongoing cases and offences prior to the announcement.
â€œThe cases that are still under the deliberation of a military court will go ahead because they have already entered court procedure,â€ Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters.
â€œThere are 1,500 cases in the military courts, of which 1,000 cases have already finished and 500 cases remain,â€ he added.
Thailandâ€™s military courts tend to have much higher conviction rates and are far harder to appeal.
Some have handed down record jail terms, including a 30-year sentence for a series of Facebook posts by a civilian that were deemed critical of the monarchy.
The new order reflects growing confidence among junta leaders that they have successfully curbed opposition.
â€œIt was about the right time to relax as people are more happy and there is less of a resistance movement,â€ Prayut told reporters today, though he rejected any suggestion international pressure had instigated the change.
Watana Muangsook, a politician loyal to the ousted government who has been detained by the military several times for criticising their rule, said the order was little more than window dressing.
â€œIf the NCPO is really sincere they should abolish all orders that violate human rightsâ€¦ such as the militaryâ€™s authorisation to arrest, search and detain people without warrants,â€ he wrote on Facebook, using the official acronym for the junta.
Than Rittiphan, from the student protest group New Democracy, which has nearly a dozen members facing upcoming military trials, told AFP â€œWe felt that they just do (this) to keep out international pressure. They have no intention in respect of human rights at all.â€
By AFP Bangkok
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