What AI doesn’t say about Thailand

16 11 2010

A few days ago PPT commented on Amnesty International’s high-level delegation that met with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Bangkok Post has an interview.

AI’s new secretary-general Salil Shetty and AI’s  Asia-Pacific deputy director Donna Guest said very little about lese majeste. As one of our readers asked, is this a joke? Or is AI a joke? We agree, but then PPT expects nothing from AI on lese majeste; their position is clear. Don’t talk publicly about it.

Shetty was asked what AI’s focus was. His response was “freedom and security.” But freedom seems not to extend to lese majeste.

The Post asked about the fact that AI in Thailand had lost its neutrality following the 2006 coup – PPT would add that the loss was earlier, in 2005. In particular, AI was asked about Somchai Homlaor becoming chair of AI Thailand. The Post points out that he is “considered by some as sympathetic to the government…”. AI is asked: “How will AI balance a view on human rights in a polarised Thai setting?”

Shetty says, “The costs of turbulence and protest are paid by the Thai people, of course.” PPT has no idea what this might mean. However, he does go on to  AI Thailand and says, “AI has corrected the situation already.” Again, entirely ambiguous. At least he seems to acknowledge that AI Thailand had problems. On Somchai he says he was “democratically elected as chairman and the AI process has been bottom-up, not top-down.” It is a pity that AI hasn’t taken this position on Thailand’s larger politics in such a clear way.

Guest adds: “In the case of Mr Somchai’s chairmanship, he has been a human rights lawyer for decades and he himself was once a political prisoner. We do not ask any local members to compromise their political views but they have to act objectively and neutrally on behalf of AI.” There lies the problem. After taking a strong yellow-shirted position earlier, Somchai now works in a position that was created by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government for political purposes. His independence is in question.

AI claims to be interested in human rights in Thailand in these areas: “freedom and security laws… [and] accountability of perpetrators” of the April and May political killings. Shetty adds: “There’s a sense that human rights violations come from all sides and colours. We need to make sure these people are held accountable and there’s no shade of impunity. Our second concern is restrictions on freedom of expression, particularly censorship on the internet, radio and some print media. Third are security-related laws like the emergency decree, the computer-related crime law and the lese majeste law.” Shetty also mentions the South.

PPT agrees on almost all points and is pleased to see lese majeste at least mentioned. The question for AI is: how is it going to do anything serious about lese majeste and to ensure that the state’s “investigations” in all human rights matters are at all independent and fair?

Shetty does also suggest that the government’s position is fixed: “we know their position and they know ours. But it’s better to talk face-to-face and reiterate our concerns. It’s part of our dialogue with national governments. Both of them reassured us of their commitment to human rights and that position is important.”

Yes, great. It is a pity that such statements are repeatedly disavowed by the facts.

The other pity is that AI remains reluctant to take any public stand on lese majeste or consider those detained political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

For a strong statement attacking AI for its failures on Thailand, see Siam Voices.


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16 11 2010
Tweets that mention What AI doesn’t say about Thailand | Political Prisoners in Thailand -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Beth Misenhimer, kob . kob said: What AI doesn’t say about Thailand http://bit.ly/adf8jE #fb […]

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[…] couldn’t answer some quite specific questions. It included members who have been associated with a particular side in the political conflicts it investigates. Perhaps this is why, after all the claims of unbiased […]

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12 06 2013
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[…] has only mentioned Shetty in two previous posts, when we were highly critical of AI’s stance on lese majeste. In fact, it was the lack of any […]




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