Thailand’s Military Will Still Try Some 500 Ongoing Cases Against Civilians

Military police officers guarding the gates of the military court in Bangkok, Thailand
Military police officers guarding the gates of the military court in Bangkok, Thailand



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.

“The cases that are still under the deliberation of a military court will go ahead because they have already entered court procedure,” Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters.

“There are 1,500 cases in the military courts, of which 1,000 cases have already finished and 500 cases remain,” he added.

Thailand’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.

“It was about the right time to relax as people are more happy and there is less of a resistance movement,” 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.

“If the NCPO is really sincere they should abolish all orders that violate human rights… such as the military’s authorisation to arrest, search and detain people without warrants,” 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 “We felt that they just do (this) to keep out international pressure. They have no intention in respect of human rights at all.”

By AFP Bangkok



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