In yet another op-ed, Pavin Chachavalpongpun comes to the conclusion that many drew at the time of her appointment as chief of Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) back in 2009: the NHRC has been “rendered toothless by its Quisling chairwoman” Amara Pongsapich.
A Thai Rath cartoon of Amara’s close relationship with Abhisit and the army
Writing at the Asia Sentinel, Pavin is angered that Amara has not had the NHRC do much of anything on some of the major human rights issues that have emerged during her tenure as chair. He mentions lese majeste, the deaths at the hands of the Army of red shirts in 2010 and the death in custody of lese majeste victim Ampol Tangnopakul.
Back in mid-2010, PPT commented:
PPT has serious doubts about the NHRC and its effectiveness. We’re not even sure that the NHRC even has the capacity to understand the significance of, and deal with difficult, human rights issues in a society that is divided by political conflict. Amara has been totally ineffective and compromised by her links to royalists and Privy Councilor Prem Tinsulanonda.
Amara gets chummy with the Democrat Party leadership at an army base during the red shirt uprising in 2010
Pavin notes that Amara has been especially supportive of Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was the premier who appointed her. PPT has no doubt that Abhisit appointed her precisely because he knew she was prepared to be a human rights charlatan.
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.
Where Pavin’s piece is useful is in pointing out the double standards employed by Amara while she has been at the head of what is meant to be an important protector of human rights. He observes, as PPT has, that “Amara has never been politically neutral since the beginning. Her inclinations and sympathy toward the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the royalist Yellow Shirts…”.
One example of double standards is seen in her recent actions:
When the Yingluck Shinawatra government decided to employ teargas to disperse crowds in the latest anti-government rally led by an elderly former general in late November, Amara and her NHRC were fuming. She immediately released a statement reproaching the government’s measures in dealing with the demonstrators…. “The government was over-reacting and the use of teargas was unacceptable,” she said.*
NHRC’s Amara with Abhisit: opposing human rights
Another is in the arena of political prisoners, of which there were hundreds during the Abhisit regime: “The NHRC has shown a marked lack of interest in many other cases involving political prisoners, as well as harassment against Thai academics in Thailand who spoke critically of the monarchy.”
Pavin concludes with an observation that is a perfect demonstration of Amara’s bias and disdain for real human rights. He notes that she:
has offered human rights awards to a number of dubious personalities, ranging from a celebrity monk, a controversial [royalist] forensic pathologist and a[n ultra-royalist and ultra-nationalist] detainee in a Phnom Penh prison who was arrested by Cambodia for provoking a conflict between the two countries.
The demise of the NHRC under Amara’s “leadership” is a travesty, but it was what Abhisit intended when he appointed her, and she has not disappointed Abhisit or the royalist elite.
Update: *Bangkok Pundit suggests this attribution to Amara is incorrect.