Updated: Investigate abduction, drop charges

23 01 2016

As Thailand’s military dictatorship thumbs its nose at international norms and laws and embeds repression, Human Rights Watch has demanded that the military junta “urgently investigate the abduction and alleged beating and mistreatment of prominent student activist Sirawith Seritiwat by army soldiers” and should “drop charges against peaceful critics and end the military trial of civilians.

That all makes sense to us at PPT, but it will mean little to the military junta and The Dictator. HRW knows this, stating:

“The abduction and apparent mistreatment of a prominent student activist is further glaring evidence that wanton violations of human rights are the norm under the NCPO’s military dictatorship in Thailand,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “What’s even worse is Gen. Prayut brushed off international concerns and condemnation, and appeared to tolerate the abusive treatment Sirawith received by emphasizing the military could ‘use any measure’ to carry out an arrest.”

The extent to which Thailand under the junta has moved to embed authoritarianism, HRW notes that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has not only refused to investigate this abduction but claimed that his military thugs can use “any measures to arrest Sirawith.” HRW quotes The Dictator:

Officials acted on an arrest warrant. He [Sirawith] violated the Public Assembly Bill and the NCPO’s order [Order Number 3/2558, which bans public assembly and political activity] … Officials could use any measures to arrest him. The arrest doesn’t have to happen in front of camera, which could then trigger a protest … Why don’t people respect the laws instead of asking for democracy and human rights all the time? … No one is allowed to oppose [the NCPO]. I dare you to try to oppose [the NCPO] … I don’t care what the international community would think about this. I will send officials to explain to foreign embassies. I am not afraid of them. I will tell them to understand that this is Thailand and we are enforcing Thai laws.

HRW makes quite a few reasonable observations about the decline of rights and freedoms under the junta and its flagrant abuse of international law.

HRW has support in a similar call from the United Nations Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) that has urged the “military to drop all charges against 11 student activists arrested for violating a ban on political gatherings.” Laurent Meillan, the acting OHCHR regional representative, states: “The right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and opinion are fundamental rights and should never be regarded as a serious criminal offence…. We urge the authorities to drop all charges against the students.”

It should not be forgotten that these students are charged because the military junta will not countenance public scrutiny of its projects; in this case, Corruption Park. So far, it has successfully covered up on claims of corruption and managed to have the media lose sight of the case. These students keep it alive, so thuggish repression is deemed necessary.

This junta remains uninterested in human rights, seeing them as a Western plot against the monarchy and junta, and is determined to return Thailand to its dark ages of military repression, aligning its practices with some of the world’s most abusive regimes.

Update: A reader points out that there is a kind of answer to The Dictator available. When he asks: “Why don’t people respect the laws instead of asking for democracy and human rights all the time?”, the well-known historian Nidhi Eowsriwong has a useful essay that can be seen as a riposte. It is his “When Orders Become Law.”