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(New York) – Thailand’s junta has proposed that the new constitution protect military personnel from prosecution for serious abuses, Human Rights Watch said today. The constitution drafters should reject the proposed de facto amnesty.

Thailand's prime minister, Prayut Chan-ocha, salutes members of the Royal Thai Army at the Thai Army Headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand on September 30, 2014. © 2014 Reuters

Coup leader Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, in his capacity as the chair of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order, sent a letter regarding the draft constitution to the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee on November 11, 2015. The junta recommended that the drafting committee include a clause that would exempt the military from civil, criminal, or administrative accountability for the use of force “in good faith” to protect national security from internal and external threats.

“A blanket immunity clause in Thailand’s new constitution would allow the military to commit abuses without fear of prosecution,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Given the Thai military’s long record of human rights abuses, this would effectively be giving soldiers a license to kill.”

Thailand’s military has operated with impunity for decades. Not a single soldier has been held legally accountable for deaths or injuries during crackdowns on protesters, dating from the 1970s through the latest political confrontations in April and May 2010. In 2010 at least 99 people lost their lives and more than 2,000 were injured, mostly from the excessive and unnecessary use of force by the military. Commanders who gave unlawful orders to fire have also not been held to account.

International human rights treaties ratified by Thailand make clear that status as a government official does not permit immunity for serious rights violations. In addition, Thailand has international legal obligations to ensure the right to an effective remedy for victims of serious violations, including unlawful killings. A victim’s right to an effective remedy requires that the government take the necessary investigative, judicial, and corrective steps to redress the violation and provide justice and reparations.

“The Constitution Drafting Committee should immediately reject the junta’s impunity proposal,” Adams said. “The new constitution should ensure the law applies to all people equally. No one should be able to escape prosecution and accountability for rights violations.”

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