UN human rights report and lese majeste

22 08 2011

PPT has not seen Thailand’s draft report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. However, Kavi Chongkittavorn at The Nation has an account that is predictably positive towards the old Abhisit Vejjajiva government that drew it up. His account begins:

The report on the human-rights situation in the Kingdom recently submitted by Thailand to the UN Human Rights Council is a relatively decent one. Of course, it could be better, as some civil society leaders and academics have argued. Judging from the overall substance, and from the drafting and consultation process, it accurately reflects the full spectrum of human-rights conditions in the Kingdom, as well as the various challenges facing the country.

Thailand, which has been chairing the Council, is due to present the report as part of a review process on 5 October. Kavi states that the last time Thailand was defending its rights record at the UN was in 2005, when

it was faced with serious allegations of gross violations of human rights coming out of the anti-drug campaign in early 2003, which left more than 3,100 people dead, according to reports at the time. Later, it appeared that the numbers were even higher as the war on drugs continued clandestinely until the beginning of 2004, with as many as 2,000 additional victims. Despite widespread accusations of extra-judicial killings, very few people have been brought to justice.

This is a remarkable account by Kavi. PPT doesn’t think it has ever seen a figure claiming 5,100 deaths. We have no doubt that the war on drugs was a serious abuse of state power and of human rights. However, if Kavi is to be taken seriously, one would need to seriously re-consider what is known about Thailand’s homicide rates (see here and here). These data suggest that 2003 was the only year that saw an exceptional jump in the rate. In fact, in 2002, there were 5,079 reported homicides in Thailand, jumping to 7,042 in 2004. The massive jump was due to the war on drugs, but could it really be by 3,100 or more than 60% of all homicides in 2002? In 2004, Thailand’s homicide rate reportedly drops substantially, so it would be difficult to conclude that there were 2,000 war on drugs deaths in that year. If any reader knows of serious attention to these statistics, PPT would like to know.

After some comments about how wonderful Thailand was on human rights under the Democrat Party, a line Kavi has run for some time, he turns to more serious analysis:

The country’s record in terms of disappearances is among the worst in the world….

Most glaringly, the report highlights Thailand’s lack of civil and political rights protections in comparison to its more advanced environments in terms of economic, social and cultural rights….

Thailand has a mixed record on displaced persons, asylum seekers and human trafficking…. [PPT: under the Abhisit government, the record was abysmal]

Kavi then states: “Obviously, the most controversial paragraph is No 24, which contains a 135-word passage on the right to freedom of expression as it relates to the monarchy.” Indeed they will be. Kavi’s summary of them is:

The report says Thailand has striven to find a balance between protecting the monarchy and the right of individuals to express their views. The National Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Justice have embarked on a process to review lese-majeste-related laws and practices. Better coordination among the police and prosecutors are pivotal for proper legal proceedings under the Criminal Code’s section 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.

Of course, if the statistics of the huge increase in lese majeste charges and convictions alone are considered, the idea that there has been any kind of effort to “find a balance” is simply a fiction. But Kavi’s next comment deserves more serious consideration:

The … [2007 Computer Crimes Act] has proven to be the most lethal weapon used by the authorities today to silence the Thai public, at home and abroad. As the number of suppressed websites and Web pages continues to increase, Thailand’s reputation as the region’s beacon of media freedom evaporates. The practice has landed the country on at least two dozen global watch lists of nations with strict online-censorship regimes.

He follows this with a rather odd account of the need to make officials and users more “aware” of the law. One couldn’t possibly suggest that the laws should be abolished or even changed! Kavi then gets even stranger when he states:

Unintentionally though it may have been, law enforcers and online users have done unfathomable damage to the country’s long-standing right to freedom of expression and to the monarchy’s creditability, due to their myopic one-sided advocacy.

Again, Kavi doesn’t ask if the laws are used politically. He blames users and enforcers for myopia. There is no attention to human rights in this approach.Kavi is simply making a case for the laws to be better enforced. Isn’t that what Abhisit said he do? And that resulted in more charges, closed courts and more people in jail.


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30 08 2011
August Campaign Update « The Librarian of Bangkok Prison

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