Lawyers, academics, and civil society groups have condemned the Thai junta for intervening in an election of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, saying that the junta has no legitimacy to do so.
The Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA), Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), ENLAWTHAI Foundation, Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) and 66 other lawyers and law academics on Monday, 21 March 2016, issued a joint statement to condemn the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) for ordering a halt to the election of the Lawyers Council under the Royal Patronage.
The junta’s NCPO on 16 March issued an order to halt the upcoming election of the council’s president and committee for 2016-2019. The poll was initially planned for 24 April 2016.
In a letter sent to the Lawyers Council by the NCPO last week, Gen Chalermchai Sitthisat, Deputy Secretary-General of the NCPO, reasoned that the Lawyers Council has many members and that the election of the Council might be deemed a violation of NCPO Announcement No. 7/2014 which bans a political gathering of five or more persons.
The NCPO added in the letter that to maintain peace and order in accordance with NCPO Announcement No. 85/2014, the current president and committee of the Lawyers Council shall serve as an acting committee for the time being.
In the joint statement, lawyers and rights groups said that the NCPO’s order to halt the election of the country’s Lawyers Council is a serious violation of human rights and the principle of the rule of law.
“Lawyers have the right to establish and join an occupational organisation to direct ourselves and to represent and protect the honour of lawyers,” reads part of the group’s statement. “Members of the executive committees of occupational organisations must be elected from their members and able to work without outside intervention.”
In order to guarantee that the Lawyers Council of Thailand was able to operate independently to provide legal assistance for the people, the NCPO must withdraw its order and refrain from intervening in Council affairs and the election of the Lawyers Council must proceed as initially planned, the statement concluded.