The Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF) has called for the Government of Thailand to ratify and comply with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The Asian Human Rights Commission has circulated it in English.
To most reasonable people, that might seem a very reasonable call. Indeed, a question might be asked as to why Thailand hasn’t already signed up. The answer is deeply depressing. The government – any Thai government – refuses to sign because, not unlike the abolition of the lese majeste law, such an innovation scares the pants off the elite. They fear that removing the impunity they have of using the Army and police to murder and massacre would bring their whole political and economic monopoly crashing down. Of course, it wouldn’t, but this lot won’t allow concessions to be made to the lesser beings they lord it over.
The JPF report details the enforced disappearance of 59 people from across Thailand. JPF President Angkhana Neelapaijit, whose husband Somchai was disappeared, states:
JPF has found that enforced disappearances take place within a broader context of state violence which is used to silence dissenting views and to eliminate suspected criminals, outside of the rule of law….
JPF found that two government policies contributed to enforced disappearances: “the highly militarized counter-insurgency approach adopted in southern Thailand by various governments and the War on Narcotic Drugs beginning in 2003.”
JPF also found that particular categories of people were most vulnerable to enforced disappearances:
(i) people with close relationships with officials and /or come into conflict with officials; (ii) activists engaged in human rights, political or corruption activism; (iii) witnesses of crimes or human rights violations; and (iv) migrants.
The report also points out that enforced disappearance is not a new problem, and notes cases since 1952.
How are people disappeared? Apparently there are three patterns:
The first, and most common, involves officials taking the victim from the street by forcing them into a vehicle and driving away. Secondly, the disappearance begins with the victim being arrested from his home or place frequently used by him. Thirdly, the victim is invited to meet an official at a specific location and then disappears. The detention of the individual is consistently denied when families seek information about their missing relative.
All of this will be depressingly familiar to anyone with some knowledge of Thailand and the activities and impunity of its police and Army. All of this is supported by the judiciary, which is biased, corrupt and compromised.
Angkhana is absolutely correct when she states that:
Decades of impunity have created a context in which administrative and security officials know that their illegal actions are condoned by the state and that the likelihood of legal action against them is extremely low….
JPF has made several recommendations, including ratification of the International Convention.