AI, forced repatriation and the unspoken

8 01 2011

Benjamin Zawacki is Amnesty International’s researcher on Thailand and Burma. He has an opinion piece in the Bangkok Post where he laments the fact that a year after the last op-ed he wrote for the Post a year ago on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s horrendous policy on refugees needs to be restated early in 2011.

As regular readers of PPT will know, we have posted many times on the obnoxious policies implemented by this government as it has repeatedly engaged in forced repatriation of border crossers seeking refuge in Thailand.

Zawacki refers to the late December 2009 when the Thai “army forcibly returned to Laos around 4,500 ethnic minority Hmong, among whom were 158 recognised refugees and many other asylum seekers.” He adds that: “A year later, only the facts had changed: the 166 refugees forcibly returned on Dec 25 had fled fighting in eastern Burma between the Burmese army and several ethnic minority armed groups. Of these refugees, 120 were women and children. They had taken refuge in Waw Lay village in Phop Phra district of Tak province, where authorities had likewise forced back at least 360 Burmese refugees on Dec 8, roughly 650 on Nov 17, and approximately 2,500 on Nov 10, 2010.”

The human rights violations are the same, he says, with a right “not be sent back to fighting or persecution – the principle of non-refoulement.” He adds that, “[o]nce again, Thailand has committed a clear and direct violation of international refugee law.”

In his previous article, Zawacki says he concluded that “Thailand’s disregard for its international legal obligations should not go without a response by the international community”, and he reiterates that for 2011.

Indeed. We agree entirely. The current government’s policies are abysmal and gross violations of human rights.

We wonder, though, if this government will take anything from AI seriously. The problem is that Zawacki and AI have shown themselves to be complicit in a different silence on human rights abuses in Thailand. If AI refuses to take lese majeste seriously, how can its voice be taken seriously on other human rights abuses? AI in Thailand needs human rights consistency if it is to be seen as a fearless protector of human rights.

AI has said almost nothing of consequence on lese majeste or on the detention of hundreds of political prisoners in Thailand.


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8 01 2011
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