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Revoke martial law, rights group advises Thailand

THE UNITED States and other governments should pressure Thailand to revoke martial law and end media censorship, which was imposed on Tuesday, a leading human-rights group said.

"The military's effective seizure of power and imposition of martial law across the country puts the rights of all Thais in jeopardy," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying by Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared martial law early on Tuesday to empower the military to control all security matters, impose censorship of the media and enjoy a degree of impunity for its actions. Later that day, the military shut down 14 radio and satellite TV stations seen as under the control of political groups and stationed personnel in the country's main television stations to enforce censorship of news.

"Press freedom has been the first casualty, but Thailand's friends around the world need to speak out to prevent the assault on other basic rights," Adams said.

Under martial law, soldiers found guilty of any form of human-rights abuse will be tried in military court, not civilian.

"Civilian rule needs to be restored and elections scheduled so that the Thai people can decide who governs the country," Adams said.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International yesterday urged the authorities to ensure that people's rights are protected and respected.

"The declaration of martial law must not be a blueprint for human-rights violations. It is crucial that the military shows the utmost restraint and fully respects Thailand's obligations under international human-rights law," said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International's Asia director.

"The military's moves to impose tight restrictions on independent media are deeply worrying. National security must not be used as a pretext to silence the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, and we urge the military to give media in Thailand the space to carry out their legitimate work," Bennett added.

"The situation in Thailand is tense and volatile, and any attempts to curb the right to peaceful protest and other human rights have the potential to inflame matters even more. It is crucial that political leaders on both sides make it crystal-clear to their supporters that any human-rights abuses are unacceptable."


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