Does Thailand’s state of emergency balance national security with freedom of expression?

Following anti-government protests in March in Thailand, the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Thai government declared a state of emergency.  As part of the state of emergency, “public gatherings of more than five people are banned and security forces have the right to detain suspects for 30 days without charge.”[1] Since then over 400 people have been detained.[2] Emergency rule is still in force for parts of Thailand and was extended beyond the initial period for another three months.  The reason given for the extension was initially based on fear of security, but now business and tourism are the reasons for imposing and lengthening the emergency state.[3]

However, whether the state of emergency is being used to maintain security or to stifle opposition remains difficult to ascertain.  According to the Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, the state of emergency “is alarming, it violates basic civil liberties.  It is being used increasingly as a political instrument of the government and the powers-that-be in Thailand to maintain control, to try and put a lid on the opposition, to stifle dissent.”[4] Reporters Without Borders have also found that parts of the media who sympathise or have an affiliation with the Red Shirts “have been censored, banned, forcibly closed or prosecuted.”[5]

The seventeen “Red shirt” protest leaders have since been accused of terrorism and appeared in Bangkok Criminal Court, where they pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges.  If they are found guilty they could be sentenced to death.[6]


[1] BBC News, Thai Government extends state of emergency in Bangkok.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/0518197

[2] BBC News, Thai Government extends state of emergency in Bangkok.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/0518197

[3] BBC News, Thai anti-government protest leaders in court.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-10986152

[4] BBC News, Stark Warnings over the Thai Emergency laws.  http;//www.bbc.co.uk/news/10524678

[5] Reporters Sans Frontières, Does state of emergency justify censorship of Red Shirt media? http://en.rsf.org/thailand-does-state-of-emergency-justify-29-07-2010,38055.html

[6] BBC News, Thai anti-government protest leaders in court.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-10986152

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1 Response to “Does Thailand’s state of emergency balance national security with freedom of expression?”


  1. 1 Thailand December 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I agree. Thailand is too strict on crowd control.


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