[JURIST] Thailand’s military government announced on Monday that it will prosecute cases concerning national security and “royal insult” in civilian courts. Dissidents have been tried in military courts since the military seized power in 2014. Junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha [BBC profile] signed an order saying that these cases will be tried in civilian courts [Reuters report] because of “an improving situation and cooperation from the public for the past two years.” The cases currently in process will remain in military court. However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] Asia Director Brad Adams says this decision is just “sleight of hand” [HRW report] leading up to Thailand’s Universal Periodic Review before the UN Human Rights Council later this month.
Thailand has been home to significant human rights concerns for years, some of which stem from the nation’s court system. In particular, human rights groups worldwide have expressed growing concern over violations in Thailand since the military junta came to power in May 2014. Last week the Thailand Supreme Court affirmed [JURIST report] a 20-year prison sentence given to protest leader Sondhi Limthongkul in 2012. Last month, Thailand passed [JURIST report] a new constitution by referendum vote. The constitution was drafted by a military-appointed counsel and is feared to be another step in entrenching military control of the nation. Thai military officials in July charged [JURIST report] three human rights defenders with criminal defamation and violations of the Computer Crimes Act because of a report they published detailing acts of torture in Thailand. In April Human Rights Watch urged [JURIST report] Thailand to stop harassing and charging human right lawyers for defending victims of the government’s abuses, and to revoke military police powers. In March the Pheu Thai Party filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights over the detention of one of its key figures, Watana Muangsook, accusing the government of serious human rights violations.