Government grade inflation II

28 12 2009

Update/ใหม่! ดูเว็บของ Liberal Thai สำหรับฉบับภาษาไทย: รัฐบาลเกรดเฟ้อ ตอน ๒

Two days ago, PPT posted Part 1 of our assessment of current Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, covering the topics of unemployment, tourism, and exports.  In the days since then, his failing grade may have dropped to an even lower mark.

Continuing with the report in The Malaysian Insider (“Thailand has ‘stabilised and prospered’,” 24 December 2009) on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s upbeat self-assessment, PPT now turns to human rights.

Despite Abhisit’s claims, in this arena, the Abhisit government has been a failure. If we were polite, we’d suggest that Abhisit has shown an inability to understand the issues. In fact, though, PPT believes that he does understand the issues but has worked assiduously to clamp down on human rights while repeatedly claiming to do otherwise. Time after time Abhisit claims to want the rule of law but takes the Chinese path of rule by law for his government’s advantage. At the close of 2009, law remains a tool for those with influence and power to repress those who lack it.

Abhisit “rejected accusations that the repeated imposition of the Internal Security Act to curb rallies by the redshirted United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) was a violation of human rights.” Of course he would say this. But how is it otherwise? When the loyalist PAD rallies, there is no problem. When they are violent, that’s kind of too bad. When the red shirts rally, Abhisit hands over to Deputy Prime Minister and and security Tsar Suthep Thaugsuban, who puts the military in charge of security using the ISA.

By the way, what happened to the planned PAD rallies around the time of the king’s birthday? Isn’t it interesting how PAD seems to be able to be turned on and off according to someone’s whim.

Abhisit again displayed his new line on lese majeste, saying that “complaints under Thailand’s lese majeste law … would now be subject to a review by a committee to ensure it is applied “appropriately”. Which committee is this? How will it operate? Will it be transparent? Of course not. In any case, Abhisit’s government has turned to using the Computer Crimes Act to lock people up for perceived crimes and insults against the monarchy rather than the lese majeste law itself. It seems that international attention is less when lese majeste is not used.

There have been three convictions for lese majeste and computer crimes against the monarchy since this government came to power – see our list here. These convictions have included some of the longest sentences ever meted out. As far as we can tell, at least a further 35 cases remain under investigation, with one person in jail without bail – see our list here. How many more arrests will be made in 2010? How many more prosecutions will take place?

Think of other cases and issues that broadly involve human rights but remain unresolved. We’ll just list a few of them, in no particular order, with some links and are sure that regular readers can add plenty more:

Rohinga boat people: Back in January, Abhisit’s cheerleading Kavi Chongkittavorn said: “Upon closer scrutiny, it is a real blessing in disguise that the Rohinya problem blew up in the face of the Abhisit-led government. First of all, given his professed high moral ground, Abhisit will definitely act on issues related to human rights and freedom of expression sooner than later.” Almost 12 months later, nothing’s happened. Kavi was wrong on Abhisit and human rights and the Rohinga case was swept under the carpet, including the human rights abuses by security forces.

Hmong refugees: MSF left the camps in May 2009, denouncing the “growing pressure applied by Thailand’s army to force the 5,000 Hmong refugees living in Huai Nam Khao camp, in northern Thailand, to return to Laos. Increasingly restrictive measures have forced MSF to put a stop to its assistance activities after some four years of presence in the camp.” Despite considerable international pressure, in recent days, the decision for repatriation appears to have been confirmed. Described by the Washington Post as a “forced resettlement,” Abhisit is leading the charge, declining to say exactly when the Hmong would be deported but saying it could be soon. Then donning his human rights/rule of law face for the West, he states: “We will act according to the law, and we will be very careful,” adding: “We have measures to take care of this without human rights violations.” Again, PPT asks, what law, and perhaps more pertinent, whose law?

Why anybody continues to believe such words from Abhisit is beyond PPT’s comprehension, especially when he is supported by the tough talking Suthep, who has said: “This is no other country’s business – it’s between Thailand and Laos. Whatever two countries have agreed must be implemented…”.

Even the compromised Amnesty International has expressed concern on this issue, while continuing to ignore lese majeste.

The judiciary: Whether one supports Thaksin Shinawatra or not, the manner in which the judiciary and judicial-like bodies have acted as compromised bodies should be of serious concern. The gaps between the text of laws, their application, and their adjudication are growing. Injustice, and the impossibility of a democratic future, develops in these gaps.

National Human Rights Commission: PPT has posted several times on the creation of a NHRC that is anything but independent. Our most recent post was just a few days ago. This is a serious matter. With the judiciary compromised and so-called independent agencies also being nobbled in ways that favor the Democrat Party, the military, bureaucracy and palace suggests a control that far exceeds that attempted by Thaksin when he was in power.

Security forces: The government owes its position to the support it gained from the military that was attempting to put its preferred government (and that of the palace) in place following the unexpected triumph of pro-Thaksin supporters in the 2007 election. The fact that the government is beholden to the military means that its human rights transgressions are seldom seriously addressed. Even the police – who were not completely under the Democrat’s sway seem immune to serious investigation. Events in the south indicate the immunity they now appear to enjoy.  Of particular note, PPT wishes to call attention to the recent disappearance of another person connected to the March 2004 disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaichit, as well as recent analysis of the effects of the national security detentions on families of detainees. The crisis in southern Thailand has heightened, not resolved, during the regime of PM Abhisit.

PAD immunity: Like the military, PAD has a hold over the government. Part of this derives from the fact that the government owes its position to PAD’s street protests and airport occupations. Part of it derives from the sheer number of strong PAD supporters who populate the Democrat government, from the known PAD leaders like Somkiat Pongpaiboon and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to PAD acolytes like the prime minister and his Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij.

The almost complete failure to do anything about PAD’s illegal actions is astounding and is an especially clear statement of the double standards that prevail under an Abhisit definition of the “rule of law.” It is the laws he wants to use, not the law that would mean any kind of justice prevailing. But, then, we guess he needs to be thankful to those who did do much to bring the Democrat Party to power.

On double standards, a few days ago  Korn was interviewed on the front page of the Bangkok Post and warned of impending red shirt violence – this is now the standard anti-red shirt line in the pro-government media. He added a warning about so-called red shirt-schools as a preparation for agitation and violence.

Korn is quoted as saying that “attempts to change the political regime by violent means are out of date in a modern environment…”. PPT guesses that he means that the best way to overthrow governments is by the so-called bloodless coup and judicial coup.

At the same time, it is worth noting that he seems to have changed his mind now that he’s in government. Back in 2008, in the 9 September edition of the Bangkok Post, in his own column, Korn supported PAD’s storming of Government House and the NBT television station. He wrote: “it was time the gloves were taken off against the government.” He added, and PPT quotes at length: “The day after the Government House break-in was a strange one for me. I was saddened by the PAD decision to cross the legal line. Yet I understood it from the perspective of strategy. Like many school boys, I have always been interested in war strategies and the PAD, with Maj-Gen Chamlong as their strategist, certainly think in those terms. Their move on Government House fits what is called the ‘Death Ground’ strategy – putting yourself in a situation where you have too much at stake to lose. Of course, once they decided on a strategy, they moved at lightning speed – Blitzkreig; they kept their opponents on their heels, they shifted the battlefield and, most importantly, through all this, they compelled their opponents into making mistakes – the heavy-handed police reaction and, disastrously, the announcement of the emergency decree that was ignored by the army and highlighted the government’s lack of authority.”

Yes, Korn admits he had some questions about leadership, strategy and violence, but in the end supports it, saying: “At nine o’clock … I simply thought, screw the opinion polls, the people attending the rally don’t deserve to be vilified as criminals and I decided to go visit them.” Like all other double standards, this one can be justified.

Unsolved cases: The Bangkok Post today reports that there might be some progress in the 19 year old murder of a Saudi diplomat. Nothing at all seems to be happening on the assassination bid on PAD boss Sonthi Limthongkul, the alleged privy councilor assassination bid of some months ago, or the case of the disappearance of lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, six years ago this coming March.  The systemic use of torture by Thai state security forces, which Somchai worked to expose, also continues in Thailand, despite Thailand’s 2007 ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Of course, PPT didn’t expect any complete investigation into the deaths of two red shirts found floating in the Chao Phraya River last April. That would have shown evenhandedness, something this highly partisan government is seemingly incapable of.

Corruption: Apart from the cases against political opponents, it seems that there has been a failure to fully investigate corruption issues related to government spending. PPT has posted on these several times, associated with the Thai khemkaeng project and the Office for Sufficiency Economy Community Projects. These cases have simply drifted off into a black hole.

In conclusion, PPT would give the government not an A+ for human rights, but a failing grade. Critics might suggest that Abhisit’s government has done better than Thaksin’s in this arena. At the same time, failures on human rights remain failures. This is a government that trumpets the rule of law. It has done little to live up to that rhetoric. The dissonance between what the government says it does and what it actually does signals the deepening crisis in Thailand.


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28 12 2009
New: Forced deportation « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Take Action New: Government grade inflation II […]

28 12 2009
29 12 2009
รัฐบาลเกรดเฟ้อ ตอน ๒ « Liberal Thai

[…] 28, 2009 ที่มา – Political Prisoners in Thailand แปลและเรียบเรียง – แชพเตอร์ […]

31 12 2009
New: Hmong forced repatriation and human rights « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] be conducted ensuring the safety of the Hmong and with no violations of their rights…”. As we previously reported, Prime Minister Abhisit made similar “rights” and “international practice” […]