Bomb marks coup anniversary 

The Thai junta has failed to fulfil pledges to respect human rights and restore democratic rule three years after the military coup, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. 

On Monday, a bomb exploded in a military-run hospital in Bangkok, wounding 21 people on the anniversary of the 2014 coup. Police did not directly link the blast to the anniversary.

The army chief, General Chalermchai Sittisart, said Monday’s explosion and two recent, similar explosions were probably part of an attempt to disrupt the junta.

“All of this was conducted with the goal of creating disorder to the administrative work of the government and NCPO,” he said, referring to the National Council for Peace and Order, the junta’s formal title.

The NCPO, led by former general Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, had prolonged its crackdown on basic rights and freedoms, and devised a system of government that the military can manipulate and control, HRW argued.

“The Thai junta’s empty promises to respect rights and restore democratic rule have become some sort of a sick joke played on the Thai people and the international community,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s regional representative. “Three years after the coup, the junta still prosecutes peaceful critics of the government, bans political activity, censors the media, and stifles free speech.”

It was the 12th successful coup since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

The junta has boosted prosecutions under the world’s strictest lese majeste law, under which insulting the monarchy can result in 15 years in jail. The generals have made punishing perceived royal insults a priority.

Earlier this month, Thailand retreated from a threat to block Facebook, instead providing the social media giant with court orders to remove anti-royal content deemed illegal.

Prayuth could wield power without administrative, legislative or judicial oversight or accountability, including for human rights violations, HRW argued. In 2015 it passed the notorious Section 47 which states that all orders are “deemed to be legal, constitutional and conclusive”. It was ruled that anyone carrying out actions on behalf of the NCPO “shall be absolutely exempted from any wrongdoing, responsibility and liabilities”.

Key constitutional bodies set up by the NCPO, such as the National Legislative Assembly, were dominated by members of the armed forces and other junta loyalists, meaning that there was no effective check on military rule, the New-York-based rights group argued.

The new constitution, which was introduced in March, ensures that NCPO members will not be held accountable for rights violations and ensured ongoing military control after the promised 2018 election.