HRW on the junta’s repression

26 11 2014

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement on the repression being used by the military dictatorships in Thailand. PPT reproduces snips from the statement:

Thailand’s military government is severely repressing fundamental rights and freedoms six months after its May 22, 2014 coup. The ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has shown no genuine signs of restoring democratic civilian rule.

We are not sure why HRW places any credibility on the notion that the military junta was ever “genuine” about democracy. PPT reckons that “civilian rule” is a red herring. After all, the junta only wants a civilian regime that will do the bidding of the royalist elite and effectively disenfranchise millions of Thai voters. In other words, civilian rule will be the military’s version of rule by civilian puppets.

“Respect for fundamental freedoms and democracy in Thailand under military rule has fallen into an apparently bottomless pit…. Six months after the coup, criticism is systematically prosecuted, political activity is banned, media is censored, and dissidents are tried in military courts.”

Coup leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, now prime minister and NCPO chairman, announced on November 17 that criticizing or obstructing him, the government, or the NCPO was unacceptable. He also undermined his claims about a road map to return to civilian democratic rule through free and credible elections….

Who seriously believes a dictator? Why believe a military dictator? See our comment above on “reform.” HRW seems to be saying that it accepts the coup, but only if the military engages in “reform” a la the demands of the anti-democrats.

As part of its crackdown and attempt to maintain its hold on power, the junta has repeatedly vowed to prosecute critics of the monarchy, in violation of the right to freedom of speech…. At least 14 new lese majeste cases are pending in the Bangkok military court and in criminal courts around Thailand.

We think HRW is under-estimating. We count at least 17 new lese majeste cases under the junta.

The junta has also tightened restrictions on media. On November 13, Lt. Gen. Suchai Pongput, the NCPO-appointed head of a special committee to monitor media, said that reporting needed to be controlled to ensure reconciliation in society: “We do not limit media freedom but freedom must be within limits.” The military pressured Thai PBS TV to remove Nattaya Wawweerakhup from the talk show “Voices of the People That Must Be Heard Before the Reform” after she allowed participants on a November 8 program to criticize the coup and raise concerns about repression under military rule.

The Bangkok middle class and the media itself, many of who supported the coup, find that military repression in the media unacceptable, and these actions will continue to undermine the support base for the military coup.

NCPO’s suppression of free expression and public assembly makes the government’s self-proclaimed “reform” process into a sham that lacks broad-based participation and strictly follows the junta’s guidelines, Human Rights Watch said. Public forums on issues such as land reform, forest conservation, energy policy, and tax policy have been canceled by the military citing concerns that the discussions could fuel social divisions. Any gathering of more than five people can be prohibited under martial law.

It was always a sham. The issues mentioned in this snip also go to the question of how long royalist and middle class NGOs will continue to support the coup and the dictatorship.

“Instead of a path toward the return of democracy, the junta is tightening its grip on free speech and any public criticism,” Adams said. “Simply offering an opinion on politics can land a person in military court and prison. The junta needs to reverse course and revoke martial law, end rights abuses, and take concrete steps towards democratic elections if it wants to persuade the international community it’s not a dictatorship.”

Again, it seems odd to us that HRW gives considerable credibility to the “reform” claims made by those who ran and supported the coup. Was HRW supporting the military coup and is now disappointed, like its partners in Bangkok?


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