Thailand’s rights agency criticizes Public Assembly Bill

Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday criticized the junta’s Public Assembly Bill as contradicting the principle of rights. 

Although academics and activists have voiced criticism of the bill, it is pending the second reading, by the rubber-stamp National Legislative Assembly (NLA).

The concerns of the NHRC, submitted to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) include:

  • The stipulation that an assembly must not obstruct entrances and exits or disrupt the services and functions of state agencies, airports, harbours, railway stations, transportation stations, hospitals, schools, places of religion, embassies and international organizations will virtually bar any assembly from taking place in the first place. 

  • The bill’s title should be changed from ‘Public Assembly’ to ‘Promotion and Protection of Rights to Public Assembly’ to better reflect the principles and spirit of the bill. 

  • The rule that bars any march or moving of an assembly between 6 pm and 6 am is inappropriate. 

  • The rule which stipulates that rally organizers must notify the authorities of the planned rally at least 24 hours before the rally commences is not in accordance with the principles of the promotion and protection of the right to public assembly. 

  • The authorities should be entitled to call off a rally only when there are sufficient grounds, such as when the rally clearly affects national security or public safety, or seriously affects rights of others. Petty technical failures, such as failing to notify or failing to ask for permission to extend the rally period should not be justification for a ban.

  • The authorities should not be immune from legal responsibility when performing their duties stipulated by the bill.

The NHRC added that the state authorities should be careful when interpreting the bill, not to do so in a way that will make any assembly almost impossible. 

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