BANGKOK – Amnesty International urged Thai authorities on Friday to lift restrictions on all human rights and political activities and drop charges against peaceful critics, ahead of possible general elections in February.
AI made the call as the military government, in power since a coup in 2014, is set to meet Friday with various political parties to discuss the process of holding the general elections, provisionally scheduled for Feb. 24, 2019.
“Since the coup, the regime has imposed a raft of repressive and unwarranted bans on political activity and the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression,” Katherine Gerson, Amnesty International’s Thailand Campaigner, said in a statement.
Gerson said that the military government had pledged to lift restrictions many times, but had not taken any steps to fulfill the promise.
The human right nonprofit added that during the meeting, Thai authorities should announce measures to allow people to exercise rights to circulate information, gather peacefully and demonstrate, criticize politicians and express dissenting views “without fear of imprisonment or persecution.”
The statement added that the government should also drop charges and repeal punishments against critics.
Gerson accused the military junta of using legal restrictions imposed after the coup to crack down on dissidence, arresting hundreds of critics across the country.
“For too long, the military government has used public order as a pretext to shield themselves from criticism and cling to draconian controls on people coming together and speaking their mind,” she said.
The government should stop using fear, intimidation and imprisonment against people expressing their opinion peacefully, she added.
The Pheu Thai and the Democrat Party – the two main parties in the country before the coup – will not be attending Friday’s meeting, convened by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.
In September, the government had lifted some restrictions on political parties, although campaigning and holding public meetings continue to be prohibited.
The elections have also been postponed a number of times and an official announcement of the date is still pending.