HRW on deteriorating human rights situation in Thailand

21 01 2010

Yesterday PPT wrote about human rights in Thailand and said of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva: “His statements can’t be trusted and no one should be fooled into thinking that he has a ‘liberal’ political streak. Each time he speaks in public, especially to foreigners, he presents his ‘liberal face’. However, when one looks at the actions of his government, it is anything but politically liberal, especially on censorship, lese majeste and the monarchy as a national security issue.” Over several months PPT has also urged attention to the serious decline in Thailand’s human rights situation in several areas.

Now Human Rights Watch (20 January 2010) has made similar points in its World Report 2010. The press release begins: “The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva largely failed to fulfill its pledges to make human rights a priority.

For Thailand, the report points to growing crackdowns on protesters and other critics, including intensive surveillance of the internet, a failure to curb abuses by security forces in responding to the longtime insurgency in the south, and serious breaches of the country’s obligations to protect refugees and asylum seekers.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch says: “While Prime Minister Abhisit sometimes said the right things about human rights in 2009, his actions didn’t match his words…. The government continually undermined respect for human rights and due process of law in Thailand.” The report adds that the “government’s double standards in law enforcement worsened political tensions and deepened polarization.

Adams points out that “Democracy in Thailand suffers badly from draconian laws on lese majeste and cyber crimes…. A climate of fear looms over civil discourse and in cyberspace as a result of increasing restrictions on freedom of expression under the Abhisit government.”

HRW then lists a mounting series of examples of human rights problems. Readers can look through these themselves. PPT does want to point to one important error that is also continually repeated in the local press.

In referring to the existence of a massive corruption amongst a wholly decrepit police force, HRW refers to a lack of respect for findings on the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) demonstration on 7 October 2008. HRW is incorrect when it states that “Two PAD protesters died and 443 were injured. As far as PPT is aware, only one person was killed, apparently by police action. The second person who died was a PAD protestor who was blown up in his car, which was full of explosives.

HRW also points to the harassment by police and poor treatment of migrant workers and to the fact that “Abhisit’s government [has] blatantly breached Thailand’s obligations under international law to protect refugees and asylum seekers”.

Interestingly, on the treatment of Burmese migrants, The Irrawaddy (20 January 2010) reports that the governor of Tak Province has “warned Burmese humanitarian workers in Mae Sot on Tuesday that if they become involved in Burmese political affairs they could be deported.

The governor reportedly stated: “There are humanitarian workers involved in politics and [they have] formed organizations illegally. We need to investigate. If we find any violations of law, we have to kick them out of the country.”

Moe Swe, of the Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association, commented: “Many civil society groups are now in Mae Sot. The Burmese government doesn’t like it, and it is worried about their activities.” The report states that this is part of a cozying-up to Burma for economic opportunities and pressure from local business people who want more trade opportunities with Burma.

PPT would add that this pressure is a part of a broader political regression in Thailand that includes the human rights issues mentioned in the HRW report. It also results from the increased control that the military has due to its influence over the Abhisit government. The military seeks to control border activities and has long considered these Burmese activists a problem.


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