This report describes a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva to review Thailand's compliance with human rights standards. Excerpt:
Making the junta’s case, a military judge insisted that trials by the military were no different from those held in normal civilian courts of justice. He also said only a few civilians have been subjected to military trials.
The representative, from the Defense Ministry’s Judge Advocate General’s office, said they only try civilians accused of serious crimes, such as possessing heavy weapons and insulting the Royal Family. While the Thai delegation sought to assure the international community the military would try civilians fairly, they left out a a few crucial points.
For one, military court judges are not independent. They operate under the Judge Advocate General Department, which is under the Defense Ministry and thus under the junta.
Civilian courts are presided over by civilian judges which, theoretically, are independent as they operate under the Court of Justice.
Secondly, conflicts of interest invariably exist when military courts are trying activists charged with sedition for opposing military rule, such as the so-called Facebook 8.
Then there’s the question of whether the more 1,000 civilians facing military trials constitutes “a few people” as claimed.
Ultimately, why would the junta face continued flak from the international community over subjecting civilians to military trials if it believes such trials are no different from the normal course of justice? It just makes no sense.
Thai representatives also defended the continued use of absolute power by Gen. Prayuth under Article 44 of the provisional military constitution by saying it was nothing new.
The remark incorrectly gave the impression that such power has been routinely used and is not exceptional. In fact, it’s been five decades since anyone wielded such power, during the dictatorship of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who staged a 1957 coup and ruled with an iron fist from 1958 till his death in 1963.
As to the controversial lese majeste law, the kingdom’s representative again failed to acknowledge the spike in such cases since the coup or explain why military trials are necessary when they were routinely handled by civilian courts prior to May 2014.
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