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Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 191st session
(Québec, 24 October 2012)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Having before it the case of Mr. Prompan Prompan, a former member of the House of Representatives of Thailand, which has been examined by the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, pursuant to its Procedure for the treatment by the Inter-Parliamentary Union of communications concerning violations of the human rights of members of parliament,

Considering the following information provided by the source:

  • Mr. Jatuporn Prompan, a leader of the so-called United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and at the time a member of the House of Representatives, played a prominent role in the "Red Shirt" demonstrations that took place in central Bangkok between 12 March and 19 May 2010; in the weeks following the demonstrations, Mr. Prompan and his fellow UDD leaders were officially charged with participating in an illegal gathering that contravened the state of emergency declared by the government; later, Mr. Prompan was among the leaders indicted on terrorism charges relating to arson attacks on several buildings that took place on 19 May 2010, after the UDD leaders had been taken into police custody; unlike the other UDD leaders, Mr. Prompan’s status as a member of parliament resulted in his quick release on bail; 

  • On 10 April 2011, Mr. Prompan took the stage during the commemoration organized at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok to mark the first anniversary of the government crackdown on the Red Shirt demonstrations; in his speech, he criticized the then government and the Royal Thai Army for using the pretext of "protecting the monarchy" to criminalize the Red Shirt movement and kill its members the year before; Mr. Prompan also criticized the Constitutional Court for sparing the Democrat Party from dissolution, making reference to leaked video recordings that showed some of the justices colluding with party officials; following this, representatives of the Royal Thai Army filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Prompan had committed lese-majesty in his speech; although a year-long investigation subsequently found the charges to be baseless, the Department of Special Investigations asked the Criminal Court to revoke his bail, which it did on 12 May 2011; Mr. Prompan was subsequently held in Bangkok Remand Prison until 2 August 2011;

  • A week after the revocation of his bail, Mr. Prompan’s name was included on the party list submitted by Pheu Thai for the legislative elections to be held on 3 July 2011; the Election Commission endorsed the list after verifying that the candidates met the required legal conditions; in advance of the elections, Mr. Prompan’s lawyers repeatedly filed motions requesting that the Criminal Court grant bail or temporary release to allow him to vote; the requests were denied and Mr. Prompan was thereby prevented from exercising his right to vote; according to the source, his failure to cast a vote was immediately seized upon by the opposition as evidence that he was not qualified to sit in parliament; at first, the Election Commission certified the election results, allowing Mr. Prompan to be sworn in as a member of the new House of Representatives, which first met on the day of his release; in late November 2011, however, the Electoral Commission ruled by a 4-1 vote that Mr. Prompan should be disqualified as a member of parliament, asking the Speaker of the House of Representatives to refer the case to the Constitutional Court for a final ruling;

  • On 18 May 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled that Mr. Prompan’s detention on election day, and consequent failure to vote in the election, disqualified him from serving as a member of parliament; it reasoned that Mr. Prompan was prohibited from voting under Article 100(3) of the 2007 Constitution, which specifies that "being detained by a warrant of the Court or by a lawful order" on election day is one of the prohibitions leading to disenfranchisement, and that this in turn meant that he had automatically lost his membership in his political party under the 2007 Organic Act on Political Parties; the loss of party membership was subsequently the basis (under Articles 101(3) and 106(4) of the Constitution) on which he was disqualified from sitting in the House of Representatives,

Considering that the source affirms that the criminal charges pending against Mr. Prompan in connection with his involvement in the 2010 Red Shirt rallies are wholly inappropriate, that the specific charge of participation in an illegal gathering stemmed from the previous government’s unlawful use of emergency powers, and that the terrorism charges on which Mr. Prompan and other fellow Red Shirt leaders were indicted in August 2010 are politically motivated, but that, according to the source, while the Red Shirts were accused by the government of committing various acts of violence, there exists no evidence that their leaders played a role in planning the attacks, or even knew about them; considering also that the next hearing in the case is scheduled for 29 November 2012,

Considering further that Mr. Prompan was sentenced on 10 July and 27 September 2012 respectively in two criminal cases to two six-month prison sentences (with a two-year suspension) and fines of 50,000 baht on charges of defaming then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, but that an appeal is pending in both cases; bearing in mind that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression reiterated in his report (A/HRC/17/27 of 16 May 2011) the call for all States to decriminalize defamation,

Bearing in mind that Thailand is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and therefore obliged to protect the rights enshrined therein,

  1. Is deeply concerned that Mr. Prompan was disqualified on grounds that appear directly to contravene Thailand’s international human rights obligations;

  2. Considers that, although the Thai Constitution specifically provides for the disenfranchisement of persons "detained by a lawful order" on election day, preventing those accused of a crime from exercising the right to vote is at odds with the provisions of the ICCPR, Article 25 of which guarantees the right to "take part in the conduct of public affairs" and "to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections" without "unreasonable restrictions";

  3. Considers in this regard that denying an incumbent member of parliament temporary release from prison to exercise the right to vote is an "unreasonable restriction", particularly in the light of the ICCPR provisions guaranteeing persons accused of a crime the right to be presumed innocent (Article 14) and "separate treatment appropriate to their status as unconvicted persons" (Article 10(2)(a)); points out that Mr. Prompan’s disqualification also appears to run counter to the spirit of Article 102(4) of the Thai Constitution, which stipulates that only those convicted, not those accused, of a crime lose their right to stand for election once a candidacy has been submitted;

  4. Is likewise concerned that Mr. Prompan’s political party membership was terminated at a time when it had not been established that he had committed any wrongdoing and on account of a speech he had made that appeared to fall clearly within the exercise of his right to freedom of expression, as borne out by the subsequent dismissal of the charge; is also concerned that the courts can rule on the question of party membership when this is first and foremost a private matter between Mr. Prompan and his party and there was no dispute between them on the question;

  5. Sincerely hopes that, in the light of the above, the competent Thai authorities will do everything possible to reconsider Mr. Prompan’s disqualification and ensure that all current legal provisions are in line with the relevant international human rights standards; wishes to ascertain the official views on this point;

  6. Is concerned about the alleged legal basis for and facts adduced to substantiate the charges pending against Mr. Prompan and the possibility that the court may order his return to preventive detention; wishes to receive a copy of the charge sheet and to be informed of the outcome of the next hearing; considers that, in the light of the concerns in the case, it would be useful to explore the possibility of sending a trial observer to the proceedings, and requests the Secretary General to look into the matter;

  7. Is also concerned that Mr. Prompan was prosecuted, sentenced and convicted on charges of defamation; concurs in this regard with the recommendation made by the United Nations Special Rapporteur that defamation should not be considered an offence under criminal law; wishes to ascertain, therefore, whether the Thai authorities are contemplating reviewing the existing legislation with this in mind; wishes to receive a copy of the first-instance rulings and to be kept informed of the appeal proceedings;

  8. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the competent authorities and to the source;

  9. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and to report back to it in due course.
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