The United States on Monday (4 April 2016) urged Thailand to limit the role of its powerful military after the ruling junta gave military officers new police-like powers to arrest and detain criminal suspects.
The US State Department voiced concern that Thai authorities issued an order extending the internal policing authorities of the military to seize assets, search premises, and summon, arrest, and interrogate civilians, The Associated Press reported.
Last week’s decree from junta chief and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha comes amid a wider crackdown on civil liberties since he took power in a 2014 coup in Thailand, a longtime US ally.
“We continue to urge the Thai government to limit the role of the military in internal policing and to allow civilian authorities to carry out their duties,” said Katina Adams, department spokeswoman for East Asia. “This includes returning the prosecutions of civilians to civilian courts and providing adequate due process and fair trial protections.”
Under the decree, soldiers who are ranked sub-lieutenant and higher have the power to detain suspects for up to seven days in 27 different types of crime, including extortion, human trafficking, robbery, fraud, forgery, defamation, debt collection, gambling, child protection, prostitution, loan sharking and tour guide services.
Human Rights Watch have called the move a recipe for abuse and said it reinforced Prayuth’s “dictatorship.”