On the NHRC’s lese majeste procrastination

13 01 2012

At The Nation it is reported that the National Human Rights Commission “will take a stance on what to do with the lese-majeste law by the end of this year…”. That’s according to NHRC chairperson Amara Pongsapich.

NHRC head Amara Pongsapich and friend

As PPT has posted previously, Amara has strong links to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda and her tenure as chair, coming to the position under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Her tenure has been marked by a NHRC that has justified the use of force against protesters, failed on several issues related to migrants and refugees, has been compromised by its membership and has been criticized for lack of credentials and its initial statement on weak human rights.

That it should be stalling on lese majeste reform is about the least surprising announcement the NHRC chair could make.

Amara with CRES at an army base during the red shirt uprising in 2010 (Bangkok Post photo)

Certainly, Commisioner Niran Pitakwatchara has been singularly interested and relatively outspoken on lese majeste, and we recently posted on a NHRC working group “studying” lese majeste.

It isn’t just PPT that thinks that the NHRC has been negligent on lese majeste:

Asked by The Nation why the commission has been so slow to take a stance on the issue, and why the commission has managed to make a move now when it couldn’t months ago, Amara said: “We have not finished thinking it through. We’re still talking and studying so we can clarify our thoughts. We want to look at it from a human-rights dimension. We have moved slowly because we were reluctant. There’s nothing [more to it].”

If that wasn’t clear enough, she added:

We’ve just begun to make a move. The issue is very difficult, and we’ve been uncomfortable and unable to move. This is the first month that we’ve succeeded in clearly making a move….

Well, we all knew the NHRC was reluctant. But what an odd and silly claim from the chair of a national human rights body! Even these claims were only made in the face of critical questioning:

The commission met the press yesterday to report on its work last year. The issue of the lese-majeste law was conspicuously absent from the discussion, and only touched on in reply to questions after the presentation.

The report goes on to note that there have been many “petitions alleging human-rights violations in relation to lese-majeste charges and detentions were lodged with the independent [sic.] rights body last year.” Even before that the NHRC received petitions related to repression and seemed to ignore them. That included a September 2010 appeal by Somyos Prueksakasemsuk regarding censorship. Of course, Somyos was arrested as a lese majeste victim on 30 April 2011 and he remains incarcerated.

The rest of this report deserves attention as it points out how hopeless the NHRC has been. Part of the reason for this is that it is so compromised by its relations with the previous regime.

A Thai Rath cartoon of Amara's failures on rights abuses in the Army's crackdown at Rajaprasong


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17 12 2012
Failed on human rights « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Readers can view several posts over the past three years that are similarly critical of Amara: AHRC on the National Human Rights Commission, AHRC on the new NHRC, We do not lie. Of course they do, King, country, chaos?, NHRC compromised (again), How many are detained?, Somyos and another chance for the NHRC, Is dialogue possible on human rights?, and On the NHRC’s lese majeste procrastination. […]

17 12 2012
Failed on human rights « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Readers can view several posts over the past three years that are similarly critical of Amara: AHRC on the National Human Rights Commission, AHRC on the new NHRC, We do not lie. Of course they do, King, country, chaos?, NHRC compromised (again), How many are detained?, Somyos and another chance for the NHRC, Is dialogue possible on human rights?, and On the NHRC’s lese majeste procrastination. […]