Move Forward seeks changes to emergency law

Move Forward seeks changes to emergency law

A policeman watches as a demonstrator shows a sign that reads
A policeman watches as a demonstrator shows a sign that reads "Lift #emergency decree" at Government House in Bangkok on Thursday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The Move Forward Party is pushing a law amendment to make the government more accountable during the state of emergency.

Party deputy secretary-general Rangsiman Rome said during a briefing on Thursday government actions during an emergency should be checked by the legislative and judicial branches.

To make it happen, the party is proposing a bill to amend the 2005 state of emergency decree, he said.

He cited as reasons the need to check the executive power during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The government has declared the state of emergency for 85 days now, with no signs of ending it despite the absence of locally transmitted cases for 24 consecutive days,” he said.

To date, he continued, the government has issued several orders and announcements which disproportionately curb the rights and liberties of people and businesses, citing as examples the closures of areas and shops.

“There have also been cases where officials, citing the decree, took legal action against people who meant no harm such as those who distributed food and essentials to others, protesters against state projects, or those demanding actions on enforced disappearances.”

Under the party’s proposed draft, the government still has the power to issue an emergency decree but must seek approval from the House within seven days after announcing it.

An emergency situation must be no longer than 30 days, compared to 90 days at present. Any extension must be approved by the House.

After the emergency ends, the prime minister must submit to the House a report on how the government has dealt with the situation.

While the bill still allows the government to impose a curfew, clauses restricting freedom of speech and the press must go, Mr Rangsiman said.

The exemption of orders, announcements or actions from the jurisdiction of the Central Administrative Court must also be lifted. 

As well, officials on duty will no longer be protected from civil, criminal and disciplinary actions under the bill.

Arrests made must be in line with normal criminal procedures. Importantly, a person can be detained for no more than 48 hours and at places where relatives and lawyers have access to. Currently, officials can detain people up to seven days without charge during the state of emergency.

Also on Thursday, around 20 people, led by the Student Union of Thailand, labour unions of Rangsit and nearby areas and Democracy Restoration Group went to Government House. They asked the government to lift the emergency decree for economic reasons and to help people affected by coronavirus measures.

Apart from the lifting of the emergency decree, they wanted benefits for the unemployed based on the minimum wage and an increase of benefits for those employees under the Social Security Fund to 75% from 62% of daily wages until the end of this year. They also want a 50% tuition fee cut at all state universities and an increase of the elderly allowance to 3,000 baht a month from 600-1,000 baht at present.



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