“Military rule has thrown Thailand’s rights situation into a free fall,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
He said “the army is using draconian martial law powers to detain politicians, activists, and journalists, to censor media, and to ban all public gatherings. This rolling crackdown needs to come to an end immediately.”
The statement on Saturday urged the Thai military to revoke martial law powers, to end censorship, and to release people who have been arrested.
On media censorship, Human Rights Watch said the military has forced off the air community radio networks and 15 satellite and digital television channels. Cable and satellite operators were ordered to disconnect any link to international news and entertainment channels.
“Widespread censorship and threats to the media are aimed at silencing any and all critics of military rule in Thailand,” Adams said.
Thailand’s friends and allies should demand an end to this assault on the media. In a political crisis, free speech is needed more than ever.
It also said the army has also ordered 155 others to report, including deposed acting Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan and other officials from government agencies, professional associations, and civil society groups.
But reports of the military detaining people in unofficial places of detention such as undisclosed military camps raise “grave” concerns, Human Rights Watch said.
It added military authorities have not yet provided information about the detainees, how many they are, or their current location.
There is higher risk of torture and ill-treatment, Human Rights Watch said, when detainees are “held incommunicado in unofficial locations” by the military “which lacks training and experience in law enforcement.”
“The military’s mass arbitrary arrests are made all the worse by holding people in secret detention,” Adams said. “Those who have allegedly committed crimes should be properly charged and face fair trials in civilian courts.”
But Human Rights Watch added the Thai army needs to recognise that the government should be determined by the ballot, not the bullet.