A group of 55 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on Tuesday urged the Thai government to end its state of emergency [statement; JURIST news archive]. The statement comes after the UN Human Rights Council [official website] unanimously elected Thai Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow [CV, PDF] to the presidency, along with electing the Cuban ambassador [CNA report] to the vice-presidency. The two countries will hold these positions for one year. Thailand was the sole candidate for the position, in a process intended to rotate the leadership of the council between the world's regions every five years. The NGOs called on Thailand to improve freedom of expression and independence of the judiciary and to set an example of human rights standards, stating:
[T]he government of Thailand ... must play an exemplary role in upholding the highest human rights standards and fully cooperating with the Council and other UN human rights mechanisms. The public image and credibility of the Council will be seriously undermined if it is chaired by a representative of the State that continues to impose unduly prolonged state of emergency in the country. We urge the government of Thailand to lift the Emergency Decree without any further delay and ensure full transparency and accountability for those human rights violations committed during the recent unrest in its capital.The statement also called on the new members of the council, Malaysia, the Maldives, Qatar and Thailand to comply with international human rights standards and urged greater cooperation with regional human rights NGOs during their three-year terms on the council.
Earlier this month, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official website, in Thai; BBC profile] announced that he will not lift the emergency decree [JURIST report] until July 7 due to suspicion that red shirt protesters [BBC backgrounder] are planning additional rallies. Under the state of emergency, civil liberties will continue to be restricted through the institution of curfews and the banning of public gatherings. Additionally, the police have broader powers to arrest and detain, the government may censor media reports and detainees can be held for 30 days without access to legal counsel. The state of emergency was instituted in April [JURIST report] in anticipation of anti-government protests. The protests came to end [JURIST report] last month when red shirt leaders surrendered to police, which led to rioting, arson, and the imposition of a curfew to protect citizens of Bangkok and its surrounding areas. The red shirts are supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power in 2006 [JURIST report]. The group was demanding that Abhisit dissolve parliament and call new elections.