With 3 updates: Dumb and dangerous

15 01 2011

The report yesterday that the police were about to begin rounding up kids aged below 18 years found outside after 10 p.m. “without a sound reason” is both dumb and dangerous. Presumably it is so stupid a plan that it will be quietly buried. That it is even considered says a lot about how reactionary ideas have become embedded under the influence of the ancien regime that was ushered in by the serial interventions of palace and military.

As reported in The Nation, even the usually timid National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) “is calling on the police to consult all relevant parties before enforcing [this] … newly announced measure…”. Well, “consult” is timid, but at least the NHRC said something.

Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner Major-General Amnuay Nimmano has said the measure “is part of the government’s plan to cut crime by 20 per cent in six months.” Seemingly confirming this, “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that the police would mainly focus on Internet cafes, which were off-limits to children late at night anyway. He said the government would also rely on privately owned security cameras, as well as volunteers and patrol policemen, in a bid to tackle crime.”

Major-General Amnuay claimed the police were using “relevant laws, namely the Children Protection Act. He said that if children were found straying outside late at night, they would be taken to a police station and their parents alerted. A second offense would see fines and jail for parents.” He added that this was not a case of limiting rights but “protecting them…”.

The measure is dangerous because it is an infringement of human rights. It is dangerous because the reputation of the police is for exploiting the law for their own benefit, not least in bribes. It is potentially damaging to children. It is likely to be discriminatory, sparing rich kids and falling mainly on the children of poor families. It will disadvantage persons aged 15 to 18 who may legally work until 10 p.m., meaning they face police harassment as they return home. Those kids who work after that hour, and there are plenty, because employers regularly ignore the Labor Act, at also at risk.

It is dumb because it simply does not match the social and economic realities of contemporary Thailand. But this is what happens when social conservatism is backed by political power and rights are flung aside.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post has more on this ill-conceived project. Deputy commissioner Amnuay “said the proposed regulation was not a curfew and insisted it would not violate anybody’s basic rights.” He essentially claims that Thailand is dangerous after 10 p.m.: “Basically, after 10pm, it is not safe for youngsters to still be wandering in the park, on the road, on a bridge or sitting in an internet shop…”. And he adds that: “We’re not targeting those kids who are out late to attend a tutorial school, have an appointment with a dentist, or do a part-time job…”. But, of course, those kids will be caught up in this social order campaign. Surprising to PPT, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, “head of the International Law Department of Chulalongkorn University, however, said he saw the proposal as good for discipline.” We would have thought that the professor would have been concerned with rights rather than moral panic.

Update 2: Readers who want to read more of this nonsense, including senior Democrat Party members supporting it, read this story in The Nation. Perhaps locking them up and beating them consistently is the way to solve “youth problems.” Perhaps not.

Update 3: Something like sense prevailed, as reported here.


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15 01 2011
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