The Civil Court on Monday acquitted suspended PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and five other defendants of unlawfully issuing the Covid-related emergency decree in 2020.
The lawsuit was filed by seven political activists who demanded compensation after being arrested and detained under the decree two years ago.
The five other defendants were acting PM Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk, the PM’s Office, the Royal Thai Police and the Finance Ministry.
The court ruled that the government and Prayut, as prime minister, had the legal authority to declare an emergency to control the spread of Covid-19.
Sukreeya Wannayuwat, plaintiff No 1, who is now a fourth-year student in Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Education, came to the court to hear the verdict. She and six students from Chulalongkorn and Thammasat University filed the lawsuit on October 21, 2020.
The lawsuit had sought an injunction to cancel the state of emergency immediately, but this was rejected by the court. The government instead extended the emergency decree for the next two years before announcing last week that it would be lifted on October 1.
Speaking to reporters before entering the courtroom, Sukreeya said the judicial process had dragged on for two years while people were being sent to jail under the emergency decree.
“Immediately after the emergency decree is lifted, those arrested under the decree must be released and compensated,” she said.
“We all know that the emergency decree was issued for political purposes, not to control the disease outbreak.”
She added that she expected little from the court’s verdict.
Speaking after the verdict, Sukreeya said the court had refused to order the government to pay compensation for the crackdown on protesters on October 14 and 16, 2020, ruling instead that it had not used extrajudicial means and its acts were justified.