AI responds to Ji Ungpakorn

20 09 2009

Also available as องค์กรนิรโทษกรรมสากล ตอบใจ อึ๊งภากรณ์

PPT readers will know that we invited Amnesty International to respond to us regarding our post of 7 September where we observed that AI should be ashamed of its position in Thailand on lese majeste and, we suggested, Amnesty International is actually hindering human rights, not helping them.

Readers may also recall that we posted again on 9 September, saying that we hadn’t heard a peep from anyone at AI. That silence continues. However, listing himself as “Amnesty International, Thailand specialist,” Benjamin Zawacki has apparently responded to an Asia Sentinel article (“Democracy Suffers in Thailand”) by Ji Ungpakorn. We say “apparently” as identity claims on a blog can’t always be verified. But given that he went back to correct what might have been a terrible Freudian slip (see the inserted word in the Zawacki quote), it seems that the author is who he says he is.

Ji states:

Some commentators who ought to know better, however, go to great lengths in supporting illusions about the monarchy. Benjamin Zawacki, Southeast Asia researcher for Amnesty International, making a disgraceful comment on an 18 year jail sentence given to a Red Shirt activist for making a speech against the Monarchy, said that “you have an institution here ( the monarchy) that has played an important role in the protection of human rights in Thailand. We can see why the monarchy needs to be protected” (by lese majeste laws). There is absolutely no evidence that the king has ever protected human rights. In fact, the opposite is true.

Zawacki replies:

The comments of the author are hard to square with the fact that, on the day before this article was published, I received an email from Sean Boonpracong, UDD International Spokesman, inviting me to a “thank you” lunchean “for supporting democracy and [against] the 2006 coup for the past three years”. The UDD is an umbrella organization under which many and various “Red Shirt” groups and factions, including the author’s, operate. I was quite surprised by this email, though no more so than by the both positive and negative responses many of Amnesty International’s positions receive from PAD quarters. For an organization that prides itself on being neutral and objective in the defense of human rights, these contradictory responses lead me to believe we’re doing something right.

And just to note that the parenthetical “by lese majeste laws” after my quotation are the author’s words, not mine.

PPT’s comment: That AI is abuses or applauded by various groups is not necessarily a measure of “neutrality” or of doing “something” right. AI promotes human rights, not particular perspectives on these rights and AI should not be engaged in some kind of human rights applause/boos meter rating of its work. AI should do what is says it does and advertises as its mission – see here.

Zawacki’s last comment could be read to imply that he does not agree with lese majeste as a means to protect the monarchy.  But this runs counter to everything AI has so far done (or, rather, not done) on lese majeste in Thailand. As far as PPT is aware, the most that AI has done publicly is to complain that Darunee Charnchoensilpakul‘s closed trial was a problem. If there have been any other public comments on the law and its use, we wait to be informed of these.

Even if, for a fleeting moment, we were to accept that AI and/or Zawacki thought lese majeste laws unjust, by remaining silent they put people at risk, they allow a climate of fear to exist, inhibiting free speech and they certainly do not promote human rights.

Finally, neither Zawacki nor AI have explained why the monarchy in Thailand is in need of greater protection than exists for all Thais. Why is their position so special that it prompts AI to neglect the rights of other Thais?

องค์กรนิรโทษกรรมสากล ตอบใจ อึ๊งภากรณ์



2 responses

21 09 2009
องค์กรนิรโทษกรรมสากล ตอบใจ อึ๊งภากรณ์ « Liberal Thai

[…] responds to Ji Ungpakorn September 20, 2009 ที่มา – Political Prisoners in Thailand แปลและเรียบเรียง – แชพเตอร์ […]

17 04 2010
Protest via Amnesty International USA « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] earlier commentary on AI and Thailand see here, here, here, here, here, here and here. It is a long and sorry […]

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