THAILAND: Oct 14 veterans urge govt to lift martial law
About 500 gather to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the uprising and call for respect for human rights and freedom of expression
Sunday, October 15, 2006
By Apiradee Treerutkuarkul
Activists and veterans of the Oct 14, 1973 uprising yesterday urged the interim government to lift martial law because it was against the fundamental rights that people fought and died for 33 years ago. About 500 people gathered to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the uprising at the Oct 14 Memorial on Ratchadamnoen avenue.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) member Charan Dittha-apichai said lifting martial law should be urgently addressed because the government had to give priority to liberty. "Martial law has to be revoked because it violates civil liberties. The government should respect the flesh and blood traded for democracy by those who died during the Oct 14 uprising," he said.
Mr Charan, chairman of the NHRC sub-committee on media rights and freedom, said the struggle for democracy would continue as long as it was not deeply rooted in society and the political structure had not been reformed.
Martial law was imposed by the Council for Democratic Reform, now called the Council for National Security. After the Sept 19 coup, the military banned gatherings of five people or more for political purposes.
Former student activist Rosana Tositrakul told the forum that martial law did not guarantee the government would be flawless. She said it could lead to a new form of dictatorship and corruption by military officers, bureaucrats and technocrats. Ms Rosana, who chairs the Confederation of Consumer Organisations, called for public participation to investigate government transparency.
"Restrictions on freedom of expression and gatherings cannot guarantee government stability. In fact, it could spark never-ending uprisings against all kinds of dictatorship unless public participation is established, making the process transparent," she said.
Peerasak Kitwimolkul, representing relatives of demonstrators who lost their lives in the October uprising, said society should learn a lesson from the bloody tragedy more than three decades ago and stand up against the coup because it was a setback for democracy.
Now, decades later, more than 20 activists and human rights defenders had died and many disappeared without judicial intervention during the five years the Thaksin administration was in power, said activist Angkhana Neelaphaijit.
Among the disappeared is her husband, Muslim human rights lawyer Somchai.
She said the interim government should no longer support laws that continue to restrict civil liberties.
Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said he also supports the end of martial law.
Allowing political gatherings of five or more people would not affect the security situation, he said.
He also called on the government of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont to actively pursue investigations into cases of corruption and human rights violations by the previous administration, especially in the South. This would prove that it really stood by people's rights and for democracy, Mr Abhisit said.
The memorial services, which began early in the morning, drew about the same number of people as in previous years to the speeches, religious ceremonies, seminars, award presentations and cultural performances.
Former Oct 14 activists, relatives of those killed and other attendees, dressed mostly in black and white, exchanged memories and thoughts. Many young people took in an exhibition on the path to democracy which outlined events leading to the Oct 14, 1973 uprising.
Date Posted: 10/15/2006