FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
24 March 2016
A Statement from Human Rights Lawyer Association (HRLA) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission
THAILAND: Lawyers Society of Thailand urged to preserve its independence as a professional association
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) by Gen. Chalermchai Sitthisat, Deputy Chief of Staff of the NCPO, acting on behalf of the Chief of Staff, issued a most urgent letter dated 16 March 2016 addressed to the director in charge of the election of the President and board members of the Lawyers Council of Thailand (LCT) asking for the suspension of the election of the LCT's new President and board members, which is slated to take place on 24 April 2016. In the letter, it claims that since the election of the LCT's President and board members involves a large number of members and there would be election booths set up in each of the provinces based on the court jurisdictions, such practice might contravene the NCPO Announcement no.7/2557 (banning political gathering) which is applicable to all groups, in order to maintain public order of the nation during the transitional period similar to (the suspension of election of) local administration organizations per the NCPO Announcement no. 85/2557. In addition, the NCPO decreed that the board members of the LCT whose terms have already expired are to perform their duties provisionally while the new election is not forthcoming per Section 22 of the 1985 Lawyers Act.
The undersigning human rights organizations, lawyers, attorneys, and social activists have the following opinions to share regarding the incidence;
1. Freedom of expression and public assembly is key for lawyers to perform their duties professionally. Article 24 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers provides that "Lawyers shall be entitled to form and join self-governing professional associations to represent their interests, promote their continuing education and training and protect their professional integrity. The executive body of the professional associations shall be elected by its members and shall exercise its functions without external interference." The principle ensures independence of a lawyer to perform their duties and is likewise significant for the upholding of rights and freedom of people in general and the rule of law. Therefore, that the NCPO instructed by letter for the suspension of the election of the LCT's board members is considered an interference of a professional association, it effectively bestowed on the state the power to control a professional association of lawyers making it a prerequisite for them to seek prior permission from the government before undertaking any initiatives. This will impede the ability of the lawyers to perform their duties independently and will similarly affect the right to justice process of people in general.
2. The claim that the election of the LCT's President and board members involves a large number of members and that the setup of election booths in each of the provinces based on the court jurisdictions is a political gathering, and, therefore, is contrary to the NCPO Announcement no.7/2557, is an excessively board and arbitrary interpretation of the Announcement. In addition, since no legal ground has been given to support the order to have the election suspended, such an order is a breach to the 1985 Lawyers Act and is an infringement on the right to freedom of association by the LCT and the democratic rule which places an importance on self-determination and accountability to its members. It will also affect the competition and development of the profession to improve legal services.
The undersigning human rights organizations, lawyers, attorneys, and social activists have the following demands to make;
1. The NCPO must stop interfering with the independence of lawyers to perform their duties professionally by having the order rescinded immediately since lawyers are instrumental in enabling people to attain their legal rights.
2. The LCT must uphold its independence as a professional association by protecting itself against an unlawful interference and must proceed with the election according to the schedule. The suspension of the election as ordered by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is not only an unreasonable act, but also lacks any legal justification. Therefore, by executing an unlawful order, by suspending the procedure per the 1985 Lawyers Act and by allowing the existing board members to be acting board members indefinitely, the Lawyers Council of Thailand (LCT) can be held accountable for performing its duties in breach of the spirit of an association of lawyers and for its unlawful act.
3. The Lawyers Council of Thailand (LCT) must stop acting in a manner that paves the way for the interference of illegitimate power and is obliged to act in brevity to stand for and uphold the independence of a professional association to ensure that lawyers can perform their professional duties fully, without intimidation or facing legal action.
To ensure that the LCT can perform its duties to ensure that lawyers can perform their duties professionally and independently to promote people's right to justice process, all lawyer members and general public must advocate the organizing of the election of the LCT as previously announced.
With respect in people's rights and freedom and human dignity
1. Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
2. ENLAWTHAI Foundation
3. Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
4. Union for Civil Liberties (UCL)
5. Mr. Pairoj Phonphet, Lawyer
6. Mr. Anucha Wuntachai, Human Rights Activist
7. Mr. Kritsada Khunnarong, Attorney
8. Mr.Panom Butakiew, Attorney
9. Mr. Anon Nampa, Attorney
10. Ms.Yaowalak Anupun, Attorney
11. Ms.Sor Rattamanee Polkla, Attorney
12. Mr. Chanwit Aramrit, Attorney
13. Ms.Koreeyor Manusare, Attorney
14. Ms.Pradittha Pariyakaewfah, Attorney
15. Ms.Paranda Pankaew, Attorney
16. Ms.Waraporn Utairungsee, Attorney
17. Ms.Koomklao Songsomboon, Attorney
18. Ms.Sasinun Thammanitinun, Attorney
19. Ms.Phattranit Yaodum, Attorney
20. Mr.Sutthikiew Thammadul, Attorney
21. Ms.Poonsuk Poonsukjarern, Attorney
22. Mr.Sarawut Pratumraj, Attorney
23. Mr. Montree Achariyasakulchai , Attorney
24. Mr. Bandit Homket, Lawyer
25. Ms.Jirarat Mulsiri, Attorney
26. Ms.Natshatthayakron Gunthana, Attorney
27. Mrs. Amporn Sungthong, Attorney
28. Ms.La-ongdow Nonponkrang, Lawyer
29. Mr.Chulasak Kaewkan, Lawyer
30. Mr.Weerawat Oboh, Attorney
31. Ms.Somsakul Sreemeteekul, Attorney
32. Mr.Surachai Trongngam, Attorney
33. Mr.Amarin Saichan, Attorney
34. Ms.Darunee Paisarnpanichsakul, Lawyer
35. Mr.Laofang Bunditterdsakul, Attorney
36. Ms.Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Human Rights Activist
37. Ms.Ubonwan Boonrattanasamai, Lawyer
38. Mr.Pairat Supakka, Attorney
39. Ms.Chansa Supanmuang, Attorney
40. Ms.Supunsa Marhem, Attorney
41. Ms.Montana Duangprapa, Attorney
42. Ms.Karnjana Akkrachard, Lawyer
43. Ms.Pakamas Kamcham, Human Rights Activist
44. Mr.Yingcheep Atchanont, Attorney
45. Ms.Pawinee Chumsri, Attorney
46. Mr. Thanarat Mangkud, Lawyer
47. Mr.Jatupat Bunpatraksar
48. Ms.Siwaporn Fordsoongnern
49. Ms.Sunida piyakunpanit, Lawyer
50. Mrs.Natthasiri Berkman, Attorney
51. Mr.Sumitchai Hathasarn, Attorney
52. Mr.Atiwat Sengkuy, Lawyer
53. Ms.Kunanya Songsamuth, Attorney
54. Ms.Issiyaporn intapun, Lawyer
55. Ms.Nuengruetai Kochasarn, Lawyer
56. Mr.Thitirat Soisuwun, Lawyer
57. Ms.Maseetoh Munloh, Lawyer
58. Mr.Sangchai Rattanasareewong, Attorney
59. Mr.Teerapun Punkiri, Attorney
60. Mr.Sophon Hnoorats, Attorney
61. Ms.Chalermsri Prasertsri, Lawyer
62. Ms.Natwadee Tengpanichsakul, Lawyer
63. Mr.Warut Boontharik, Attorney
64. Ms.Napaporn Songprang, Attorney
65. Mr.Ratsada Manuratsada, Attorney
66. Ms.Watcharasak Vijitnun, Lawyer
67. Ms.Sirikan Jarernsri, Lawyer
68. Ms.Atchara Suttisuntarin, Lawyer
69. Mr.Papob Siemharn, Lawyer
70. Ms.Puttinee Kopunta, Lawyer
71. Ms.Nijnirun Awapark, Lawyer
72. Ms.Siwanoot Soitong, Lawyer
The views shared in this statement do not necessarily reflect that of the AHRC.
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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.
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