BANGKOK — Thailand’s military junta issued an order on Wednesday evening granting Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha and his Cabinet members the power to request military assistance with law enforcement.
According to order, which was announced on national television, the measure is intended to “increase the efficiency in enforcement of laws that protect the interest of the public and the people.”
The order states that Cabinet ministers, all of whom were chosen by junta chairman and Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth, can request the Minister of Defense, who is also a junta member, assign military officers to assist with law enforcement duties.
Those officers will be granted the same powers as law enforcement officials, and must act in accordance with existing laws. However, civilian officials will be required to “cooperate with the military officers.” Refusing to cooperate will be considered a violation of disciplinary regulations, the order states.
The order was the fourth time Gen. Prayuth has invoked Article 44 of the interim constitution, which grants him essentially unlimited power to intervene in national affairs.
Gen. Prayuth cited the Article to issue three other orders after he repealed martial law on 1 April. The three orders retain key components of martial law, which had been in place since the May 2014 coup, including the power to detain individuals without charge, ban political gatherings, and try civilians in military court.
Gen. Prayuth also said he would use the Article 44 to swiftly solve national problems, such as land encroachment and human trafficking.
The order released tonight listed “encroachment on public land and national parks, and the usage of public space that blocks traffic and leads to nuisance among the people in their daily lives,” as examples of issues that military officers will be assigned to help combat.
Article 44 has been strongly condemned by international human rights agencies and democratic governments, who say the law grants Gen. Prayuth "draconian" powers.
"Normally I would warmly welcome the lifting of martial law," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said last week. "But I am alarmed at the decision to replace martial law with something even more draconian, which bestows unlimited powers on the current Prime Minister without any judicial oversight at all. This clearly leaves the door wide open to serious violations of fundamental human rights."
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