Prayut sued over emergency decree

Activists on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha and his administration for wrongly using the emergency decree to prosecute protesters.

The activists, including Yingcheep Atchanont, the manager of the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), Chumaporn Taengkliang, a co-founder of the Women for Freedom and Democracy and Attaphol Buapat, a protest leader from the main protest pro-democracy protest group the Ratsadon, are demanding 4.5 million baht in compensation and asking the Civil Court to lift the emergency decree and its orders.

The plaintiffs said they were wrongly charged with violating the emergency decree that was supposed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, arguing that the government is using it to suppress the people’s rights to peaceful assembly and expression instead.

They said these rights are guaranteed by the constitution, which means that the ban on gatherings and political assembly is unconstitutional.

Yingcheep said the government can suppress certain freedoms during a pandemic but they cannot issue a ban on gathering. He said the decree is not meant to be used to suppress political expression.

He said many political rallies in the past year were not crowded and were not at risk of spreading Covid but authorities are prosecuting protest organizers and protesters who organized and joined them anyway.

He said 1,171 people have been charged with violations of the emergency decree related to political rallies since it came into effect in March 2020.

“The ban on gathering in the emergency decree is too vague and limits too many rights and freedoms, so we have to complain to the court to lift the decree,” he said.

A lifting of the decree would in effect mean that all charges related to its violation related to political rallies would be dropped.

He said other laws, such as the ones in the criminal code and the Public Assembly Act, could still be used to regulate assemblies so there is no need for extra orders from the decree.

Last week, architect and restaurant owner Duangrit Bunnag, also led a group of 40 businesses to file a lawsuit against Prayut and his administration for the alleged mismanagement of the Covid outbreak situation.

They said the government should pay them 50 million baht in compensation for failing to provide affected businesses with proper compensation during the lockdowns.

The Civil Court had accepted both cases.

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