New law criminalises criticism of Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court has been granted legal immunity from criticism, and the power to settle conflicts between state agencies. Although the new law allows ordinary people to petition the court directly, the process is still problematic, said a human rights advocacy group.
On 2 February 2018, the Organic Act on Constitutional Court was published in the Royal Gazette. Its Article 38 prohibits rude, sarcastic and malicious criticism of orders and verdicts made by the court, with a sentence of up to one month in jail and a fine of up to 50,000 baht.
According to iLaw, a human rights advocacy group, the law also grants the court power to settle disputes between state agencies if that dispute relates to the constitutional authority and responsibility of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Parliament, the Cabinet and the constitutional organisations.
iLaw added that the new law also allows ordinary people to submit a petition to the court under two conditions. Article 45 states that if the government fails to fulfil state duties according to Part 5 of the 2017 Constitution, an individual or a community have the right to petition the court.
However, the process could be very long as petitioners have to take these steps before submitting a petition to the court. First, they must file a petition to the agency where they have a dispute. If the agency ignores the request, petitioners have to appeal to the Office of the Ombudsman, and if the Ombudsman approves the petition, it will be handed to the Cabinet for final approval before being submitted to the court. iLaw’s analysis is that the whole process could take up to five months.
The second condition is when a state agency or state agent or an agency using the authority of the state violates people's rights. But there is an exemption for actions by the government and anything under the judicial authority of other courts. And if the constitution or other laws set out complaints procedures, these must be exhausted first.

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