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Three years after the last coup d’état, human rights lawyers have argued that the junta could not hold power without the support of the country’s judicial institutions.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) on 27 May 2017 released a report about the relationship between the military government and judicial institutions.

“Disguising the power of the gun in the form of laws and the judicial process may not have been possible if judicial institutions had not cooperated in legitimising or acting as supporting pillars of the dictatorial regime,” TLHR wrote in the report.

The ouster of an elected government via a coup d’état, the suspension of the [2007] Constitution, and the suspension of basic rights are against democracy and the principle of the rule of law. Yet the coup-makers over the last three years have admonished people to respect the law, TLHR pointed out.

From 22 May 2014 to 22 May 2017, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued 125 announcements, 207 NCPO Orders and 152 NCPO Head Orders. NCPO Head Orders were issued under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution, the statute which gives the regime absolute power.

Although some of the NCPO’s orders and announcements are clearly undemocratic, lawmakers working for the junta provided impunity for the regime through the Interim Constitution and the 2017 Constitution.

According to TLHR, at least 242 people were charged with allegedly violating the junta’s political gathering ban, at least 138 were arrested under Article 112 of the Criminal Code — the lèse majesté law — while 69 people were arrested for allegedly violating the sedition law for showing resistance against the regime.

This does not include 212 people accused of breaching the controversial Referendum Act, which prevented people from criticising the draft 2017 constitution before the referendum on 7 August 2016. During the same period a further 45 people were accused of violating the Public Assembly Act, enacted under the junta.

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