Constitutionalism under serious threat, new publication warns

(Hong Kong, July 9, 2007) A new
publication by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) documents the
“serious threat” facing constitutionalism in Thailand under the
September 19 coup group.

The 68-page special edition of the bimonthly periodical article 2
describes the future of constitutional rule there as being in serious
jeopardy as a consequence of the latest military takeover.

“This is a very important document at a critical time for the future
of constitutional rule, justice and human rights in Thailand,” Basil
Fernando, the Hong Kong-based regional rights group’s executive
director, said on release of the new edition.

“As a result of last year’s military coup and the subsequent actions
of its leadership, it is now on the verge of a return to very primitive
forms of institutional behaviour and social control,” he said.

“It is essential that people both in Thailand and abroad engage in
open and frank debate about the way in which the country is headed and
what can be done to stop or at least mitigate its extremely adverse
consequences,” Fernando added.

In the leading article Fernando likens the destruction of legal systems to the draining and polluting of the Dead Sea.

“Where a legal system constantly suffers interruptions in flow due
to military coups, suspending and alteration of constitutions, and
reductions of civil liberties by emergency decrees and state security
laws then that legal system also may be reduced to nothing more than a
polluted pool instead of a vibrant, living sea,” Fernando writes.

“As with the ecological system, the consequences of a destroyed
legal system are felt in all areas of life, not only within the legal
system itself,” he adds.

“Ultimately, the notion of a constitution being replaced by military
force is, from a legal perspective, an absurdity. While government
propaganda may try to give the appearance of a decent and harmless
coup, the effect of removing the paramount law of a country by force is
to make clear that the country is lawless,” he concludes

The edition contains a feature on cases taken up and decided by
courts in Thailand in accordance with the rights outlined under the
abrogated 1997 Constitution, including a number relating to protection
of the environment, as well as cases invoking rights of the disabled
and freedom of expression, and those involving persons fighting against
abuse of authority by government officials.

It also contains a number of other articles on constitutionalism and
human rights, including one by Thanet Aphornsuvan of Thammasat
University in Bangkok, written prior to the coup.

The special edition can be downloaded in PDF format at,, or in HTML format from the article 2 homepage,

Printed copies can be obtained by writing to the editor, article 2, at the ALRC.

# # #

About ALRC The Asian Legal Resource Centre
holds general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council
of the United Nations. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen
and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at local
and national levels throughout Asia.

Posted on 2007-07-09

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