From Brad Adams, Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch:
While there has been sporadic violence in recent months, nationwide martial law was not necessary to prevent further violence. The military has pulled a 100 year old law off the shelf that makes the civilian administration subordinate to the military, effectively rendering the executive, legislative and judicial branches powerless. The broad powers conferred on the military mean that there are no legal safeguards against rights violations and no remedies for any damage caused by the army. Censorship and shutting down of both anti-government and pro-government satellite TV channels and radio networks raises serious concerns that freedom of expression will be the first victim of de facto coup. Thailand's friends in the world's capitals should make it clear that they expect this de facto coup to be reversed immediately.
Thailand is using a century old law with draconian provisions that permit the military to exercise essentially unlimited authority to violate human rights if they are so inclined. There are basically no brakes in this law - the authorities can prohibit any activity, censor the media, outlaw meetings and assemblies, search and seize any item, hold people without trial for up to 7 days, and even compel forced labor. Opportunities for justice are minimal since the law provides for the use of military courts to try cases. It's a law that pre-dates the creation of all international human rights standards, and it shows.