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Court limits govt's emergency powers

Decree still in effect, but can't be used to halt peaceful rallies

THE anti-government movement scored a major victory yesterday when the Civil Court ruled in favour of protester Thaworn Senneam's petition, prohibiting the government from abusing the emergency decree to subvert people's right to peaceful and constitutional assembly.

The court by a majority vote ruled that the government's Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) cannot use force to disperse the protest. Also, the authorities cannot confiscate chemical substances used by protesters for personal purposes, or order the removal of barriers put up by protesters to protect themselves or stop them from using traffic routes.

It ruled that the government and its operation centre cannot stop more than five people from gathering for political purposes, or prohibit people from entering state premises. It also cannot block protesters from moving in or out of their rally sites.

The government and the CMPO are also not allowed to block traffic lanes for their operations during the state of emergency.

The protesters do not need to seek permission to trade, stock or use consumer goods during their activities, the court said.

The judgement prohibits the government from exercising measures announced under the emergency decree invoked on January 21. Though the court did not specify this, lawyer Sawat Charoenpon said the authorities could not arrest protesters for allegedly violating the emergency decree.

Thaworn declared the ruling as a personal victory and would coordinate with protesters' relatives to file a criminal lawsuit against the government for the losses they suffered during the clashes.

CMPO director Chalerm Yoobamrung said the centre had no problem with the ruling as it would not disperse unarmed protesters. However, operations to clear areas where protesters were not peaceful would go ahead, he said.

Clashes between security officials and protesters since the state of emergency was declared have killed six and wounded 130 on both sides.

In the latest development, two people travelling in a vehicle adorned with an anti-government movement logo were shot and wounded yesterday evening, the Erawan Emergency Medical Service Centre said.

The vehicle was travelling on the tollway near the exit leading to the Lat Phrao intersection when the shooting occurred. The two men, aged 40 and 24, sustained gunshot wounds to their legs.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will next week seek more details on the bloody clash between protesters and police on Tuesday.

An investigation team led by Dr Nirand Pitakwatchara, a member of the NHRC, and Dr Pornthip Rojanasund, renowned forensic scientist, examined the scene where a suspected grenade was thrown at a company of police during the CMPO's operation to recover traffic space from protest sites at Phan Fah Lilat Bridge.

Nirand said he will today invite forensic police to visit the areas near Phan Fah and collect more evidence.


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