NHRC and lese majeste

24 05 2011

To date the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been pretty much a puppet of the current regime and has done precious little about any of the gross human rights abuses seen in the country during the term of this Commission.

The only Commissioner who has seemed in any way concerned about human rights has been Niran Pithakwatchara, who chairs the sub-committee on civil and political rights. The Bangkok Post reports that Niran’s sub-committee is to “begin a study on whether the content and current use of the Criminal Code’s lese majeste clause, Article 112, is constitutional.”

PPT can only assume that this is an important turn of events and that Niran is adopting a strategy that is walking a thin line.

The “NHRC sub-committee chairman said on Monday that the controversial use of the lese majeste law was urgently called into question, since it could be a condition leading to violence in society.”

The NHRC sub-committee’s first hearing last week saw about “60 participants, including those being imprisoned, harassed and implicated as a result of  people citing Article 112.” Niran said the sub-committee hoped to complete its report “in the next few months” and report to the government and to the public.

His sub-committee includes “well-known human rights activists Somchai Homla-or, Jon Ungphakorn, Boonthan T. Verawongse, and Sunai Phasuk, would examine human rights abuses in the cases of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a trade unionist and a red-shirt editor of the Voice of [Taksin], and Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a senior historian at Thammasat University.” It seems the cases of Somyos and Somsak are to be the subcommittee’s “study platform.”

Niran said stated that his work is”not be just an academic exercise but a means to protect the rights of the people and provide some solution in the event there was injustice in applying the lese majeste clause…”. He admitted that the issue of lese majeste is not an easy matter and referred to “also surmounting internal self-adjustment difficulties within the (NHRC) office…”. That seems clear, but the question remains: will Niran be prevented from investigating and reporting?

Sulak Sivaraksa said the “Privy Council and the NHRC should have the intellectual courage to lead the discussion about the role of the monarchy in a democratic system.” Intellect and courage are not terms easily associated with either body in recent years.

Niran also spoke with officials regarding Somyos, with the prison commander saying he considered “Somyot had been so stressed out that he thought of committing suicide.” Niran added that Somyos needed bail to be able to “prepare his defence against the charge.”

In a related development, Indonesian trade unionists of the Konfederasi KASBI (Confederation of Congress of Indonesian Unions Alliance) have called for Somyos’s release and expressing concerns about his safety in an open letter to a seemingly uninterested Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The union group “said they believed his arrest was part of a systematic repression of pro-democracy activists in Thailand.” And, in an action that PPT would love to see becoming more widespread, the group “urged the Thai government to release all political prisoners; stop using the lese majeste law to persecute pro-democracy activists; abolish all draconian censorship laws; and ensure justice for those killed during the April-May violence last year.”



One response

27 05 2011
NHRC and lese majeste - ARMS – Forum Asia

[…] Political Prisoners in Thailand Files under: Thailand | Mechanisms: National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI's), National […]

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