2016 State Department human rights report

5 03 2017

PPT thinks that human rights are probably not going to be anywhere near the top or even the middle of what passes for President Trump’s foreign policy agenda. So the US State Department’s 2016 report on human rights might be the last that tries to be a comprehensive review as seen from the United States.

The country report for Thailand is pretty much as expected, although the State Department does regularly under-report on human rights violations in Thailand and does so in a rather glib manner. Here’s some clips from some 60+ pages:

Reports continued, although less than in previous years, that security forces at times used excessive and lethal force against criminal suspects and committed or were involved in extrajudicial, arbitrary, and unlawful killings….

Representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and legal entities reported police and military officers sometimes tortured and beat suspects to obtain confessions, and newspapers reported numerous cases of citizens accusing police and other security officers of brutality….

In fact, torture is standard practice.

The military government held some civilian suspects at military detention facilities….

NCPO Order 2/2558 grants the military authority to detain persons without charge or trial for up to seven days. Military officials frequently invoked this authority. According to OHCHR the military government summoned, arrested, and detained approximately 1,500 persons since the 2014 coup. Prior to releasing detainees, military authorities often required them to sign documents affirming they were treated well, would refrain from political activity, and would seek authorization prior to travel outside the local area. According to human rights groups, authorities often denied access to detainees by family members and attorneys. Military authorities threatened those who failed to respond to summonses with prison and seizure of assets….

Emergency decree provisions make it very difficult to challenge a detention before a court. Under the decree detainees have access to legal counsel, but there was no assurance of prompt access to counsel or family members, nor were there transparent safeguards against the mistreatment of detainees. Moreover, the decree effectively provides broadly based immunity from criminal, civil, and disciplinary liability for officials acting under its provisions….

The law gives military forces authority over civilian institutions, including police, regarding the maintenance of public order. NCPO Order 13/2016, issued in March, grants military officers with the rank of lieutenant and higher power to summon, arrest, and detain suspects; conduct searches; seize assets; suspend financial transactions; and ban suspects from traveling abroad in cases related to 27 criminal offenses, including extortion, human trafficking, robbery, forgery, fraud, defamation, gambling, prostitution, and firearms violation. The order also grants criminal, administrative, civil, and disciplinary immunity to military officials executing police authority in “good faith.”…

Procedures for investigating suspicious deaths, including deaths occurring in police custody, require a prosecutor, forensic pathologist, and local administrator to participate in the investigation and that, in most cases, family members have legal representation at the inquests. Authorities often failed to follow these procedures. Families rarely took advantage of a provision of law that allows them to sue police for criminal action during arrests….

Human rights groups remained concerned about the NCPO’s influence on independent judicial processes, particularly the practice of prosecuting some civilians in military courts….

In a 2014 order, the NCPO redirected prosecutions for offenses against the monarchy, insurrection, sedition, weapons offenses, and violation of its orders from civilian criminal courts to military courts. On September 12, the NCPO ordered an end to the practice, directing that offenses committed by civilians after that date would no longer be subject to military court jurisdiction. At the time of the order, the NCPO explained that approximately 500 pending civilian cases would continue in military courts, as would any other cases in which the alleged crimes were committed before September 12. According to government and NGO sources, from May 2014 to May, military courts initiated at least 1,546 cases against civilians involving at least 1,811 persons, most commonly for violations of Article 112 (lese majeste, defaming or insulting the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent); failure to comply with an NCPO order; and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

Military courts do not provide the same legal protections for civilian defendants as do civilian criminal courts. Military courts do not afford civilian defendants rights outlined by the interim constitution or the 2016 constitution to a fair and public hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal.

The NCPO routinely detained those who expressed political views (see section 1.d.). As of March the Department of Corrections reported there were 103 persons detained or imprisoned in the country under lese majeste laws that outlaw criticism of the monarchy (see section 2.a.). Human rights groups claimed the prosecutions and convictions of several lese majeste offenders were politically motivated….

Yes, that’s as far as the State Department is willing to go. Sadly deficient and spineless.

The NCPO enforced limits on free speech and expression using a variety of regulations and criminal provisions….

The NCPO also invoked criminal sedition statutes to restrict political speech….

Senior government officials routinely made statements critical of media. Media operators also complained of harassment and monitoring….

The government continued to restrict or disrupt access to the internet, and censored online content….

The NCPO intervened to disrupt academic discussions on college campuses, intimidated scholars, and arrested student leaders critical of the coup. Universities also practiced self-censorship….

The military government continued the process of revising secondary and primary school textbooks and increased instruction on patriotic themes….

Invoking authority under Article 44 of the interim constitution, coup leaders prohibited political gatherings of five or more persons and penalized persons supporting any political gatherings….

The interim constitution set the framework for the adoption of a new constitution but did not provide citizens the ability to choose their government peacefully….

There have been no elections since the 2014 coup….

The interim constitution did not contain provisions providing for the right of freedom of association or the right to bargain collectively….

There’s a lot more. Despite the State Department’s reticence and dull tone, it is a sad read.


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5 03 2017
Reflexive denial | Political Prisoners in Thailand

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Reflexive denial I | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] We earlier posted from the annual US State Department’s human rights report on Thailand. […]