From Martial Law to Section 44: Same, Same but Different?

 | Thu 2 Apr 2015 05:06 ICT

Citynews – At first glance the announcement that martial law may be lifted soon seems to be a reason to celebrate.


Martial law, which was enacted shortly after the military coup in May of last year, was followed with an interim constitution in July.  Both of these were meant to be temporary and replaced with civilian rule as well as a new constitution.  Lifting of the martial law signifies a move towards both of these.

It is important though to look beyond the removal of martial law at what is being put in its place: Article 44.

Article 44 of the interim constitution gives the leader of the National Council for Peace and Order, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, broad sweeping powers for security and national interests.  These essentially unchecked powers are given by the article for an indefinite period of time.

Prime Minister Prayut announced his submission to remove martial law and invoke Article 44 to His Majesty the King for approval on Tuesday, March 31.

With this came an onslaught of mixed criticism varying from the US Embassy spokeswomen commending the act of removing martial law if it will “lead to the full restoration of civil liberties in Thailand” to the denouncement of Article 44 by the International Commission of Jurists.

The Prime Minister stated with this power he will focus on the needs of Thailand by addressing problems such as the recent ban on Thai airlines in nearby countries.

Regardless of his claims many are unsettled by the proposal to enact Article 44 and parallels have been drawn to Article 17 of the interim constitution in 1952 which was later used to authorize the execution of 76 people.