Human rights are for foreigners

1 05 2017

The National Human Rights Commission has been pretty hopeless for a long time. This makes the latest report on it at the Bangkok Post no surprise at all.

Earlier this month, Surachet Satitniramai “resigned from his NHRC position in the hope of bringing about change inside the organisation. He said he wanted to use his resignation to point to governance problems in the NHRC.”

Surachet, a medical doctor with lots of experience in rural areas,  referred to an “an unpleasant working environment” when he resigned. He told of “obstructions,” saying it was “hard to progress anything…”.

Meanwhile, one of the few members of the NHRC with a real background in human rights, commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit “told the Bangkok Post she would not hesitate to follow Mr Surachet’s footsteps, saying she has had to exercise much patience in the position as the working atmosphere among commissioners turned unpleasant.”

She said: “All I can tell you is that each commissioner’s opinion isn’t respected equally in meetings. Some commissioners can work easily, but others may face some obstacles in progressing their work…”.

While she continues “to fight for improvements in human rights,” she expressed her exasperation with hierarchy, poor governance and what we’d interpret as “unprincipled” actions at the NHRC.

Some background is needed here. When the U.N. Human Rights Committee met recently, its report included this on the NHRC:

While acknowledging the important work of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, the Committee regrets that it was downgraded to “B” status by the accreditation committee of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. The Committee is concerned about the transparency of the process for selecting of members of the Commission (art. 2).

… The State party should ensure that the Commission is able to carry out its mandate effectively and independently, and in full conformity with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles).

In other words, at present, the NHRC has little independence of the military dictatorship and is not considered to operates as an appropriate human rights commission.

None of this seems to bother the troglodyte running the NHRC, What Tingsamitr, a judge and junta minion. He’s been on the warpath,  declaring that “if somebody [s commissioner] tried to serve foreign interests and destroy their own country, they will be loathed by the public and unable to work in such an important role in the end.”

We think the person who deserves to be loathed is the chairman himself. He is a disgrace with no knowledge of human rights. Of course, that’s why he was chosen for the position. The junta has a preference for posterior polishing royalists who are both unable and unwilling to do their job. They want obedient servants, and What is certainly that.

To comprehend the failure of the NHRC, just scroll though our posts and look at torture, murder, extrajudicial murder and more and see that the NHRC achieves nothing. It is toothless and useless.





Good lads and bad lads

26 03 2017

Remember those nice lads from the south who came to Bangkok and organized protests against the military junta’s coal-fired power station plans? Yes, the lads who have a leader who is a royal and who called for a counter-coup if they didn’t get their way?

Those lads seem to be good lads because they had the junta changing its mind on the power plant process and also forgiving the lads so that none of them have become subjects of harassment and jailing. This is because they are pro-coup.

It seems good lads can even threaten the junta without having to worry too much. Of course, the junta may change its political judgement about these lads, but at the moment they seem “protected.”

Then there are bad lads, defined as activists and drug dealers and troublemakers. Chaiyapoom Pasae, killed with a single shot by the Army, is said in the Bangkok Post to be an activist and artist. That article describes two stories of Chaiyapoom’s death, and its pretty easy to see that the military and police story is struggling to paint him as a bad lad.

One of the very interesting parts of the story is the attached picture, a screen grab from TNN, showing a blurred out image of “the body of Chaiyapoom just after he was shot, as the police, military and their photographers begin to coordinate the stories they will tell the public.” We assume it is accurate in its description and have clipped it and reproduced it below.

We find it interesting because we recall that at first “soldiers claimed that they found certain amount of amphetamine in the car Chaiyaphum was sitting in and that he was resisting the authorities to arrest him by pulling out a knife before running into a bush.” First the knife went missing from the story and now, looking at the picture, the bush is gone too.

Then there’s other pictures:

Earlier there were pictures, leaked by a Facebook page opposing the Single Gateway Internet control idea, that showed Chaiyapoom cooperating with the soldiers’ search. The pictures seem to contradict the claim that the Lahu teenager resisted the soldiers.

The problem with Chaiyapoom’s sad case is that the disbelief expressed by many is causing the authorities to have to embellish and refine their story. In other words to make it more believable by making him appear as bad as possible. But there’s the troubling problem of witnesses who are not in uniform. The driver of the car involved has been held by military and police since the event. There may be others, and if this is a cover-up, then the authorities need to control them.

If previous cover-ups are a model, then this involves intimidation and violence. One measure of the moves being made is a statement by Army deputy spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree who:

yesterday dismissed reports of a witness to the killing being threatened as untrue, saying officers have been taking care of the witness who had been co-operative and provided useful information.

He went on to threaten the media: “…[he] warned that anything revealed to the media could be libellous.”

Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit:

took a man who was Chaiyapoom’s mentor to Na Wai police station to file a report about receiving a threat. The mentor (whose name has been withheld) told the NHRC he found a bullet in front of his house on Wednesday night, after he spoke out in defence of the young activist. He said two men, who did not identify themselves, had showed up earlier at his house to tell him to stop talking about Chaiyapoom.

They will have been military thugs.

The NHRC stated that “[o]ther witnesses were too scared to even talk to members of the rights body team yesterday.”

No soldier who manned the checkpoint at the time of the extrajudicial murder had been transferred or suspended. They were all continuing to work as normal.

Perhaps that’s why the witness who has been threatened is being assisted by the NHRC and will likely “go into a witness protection programme.”

Expect more efforts to paint Chaiyapoom as a bad boy, to intimidate his family and friends and to intimidate witnesses.





Rehearsing lies

9 03 2017

A story at Khaosod tells much about the military dictatorship that currently rules Thailand by dint of military boot and Article 44.

The story reports Pitikarn Sithidej, who works for the little known Rights and Liberty Protection Department in the Ministry of “Justice.” (We gave up looking for it on the Ministry website, which is a tangled mess.) We imagine they don’t have much work to do.

Pitikarn proudly declares that “Thailand is ‘fully prepared’ to defend its record and obligations on human rights next week when they are discussed in Geneva before the United Nations…”.

Others have also defended the undefendable and usually it has been the skilled liars from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who have led the teams defending torture, lese majeste, political repression, enforced disappearance, the murderous military, impunity, military courts, massive censorship, restricting speech and assembly, rule by decree and martial law, and many more.

Apparently, on Monday and Tuesday next week, in Geneva, “an 18-member body of independent experts chosen by UN member states will review Thailand’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

In fact, this is an open-and-shut case. The junta simply doesn’t defend civil and political rights; it mangles them.

Still, perhaps thinking that the rest of the world is moving in Thailand’s direction, the Rights and Liberty Protection Department’s Pitikarn says it has been rehearsing responses: “We have staged a question-and-answer drill and anticipate what questions will be asked by the committee. We are fully prepared, and our report will be based on the facts…”.

Facts? We get it, she really means “junta lies.”

Oddly, although perhaps part of the “rehearsing,” Pitikarn appeared at a forum with Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch. He revealed that “his organization would focus on the use of Article 44 under the military’s interim constitution, which he said has widely undermined human rights and lacks any accountability. ”

He added: “All [international human rights] obligations can be discarded by Article 44 and many times it’s been used to violate rights…”.

Sunai also said HRW “will call next week … for the military government to abolish it to demonstrate its commitment to restoring democracy.”

Seriously? Just that? That’s the best HRW can come up with? Square that with National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit saying: “There must be an assurance they will not sue those speaking in Geneva.”

Yes, those going to speak at Geneva – apart from the official bearers of rehearsed junta lies – are already fearful!





Updated: The royalist rubble that was human rights

22 07 2015

Readers will know that PPT has little time for the ridiculous National Human Rights Commission. In the period since Amara Pongsapich has been chair of the organization it has been a joke. Being responsible for human rights should never be a joke, but working with the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, Amara made the NHRC a biased and useless organization.

Amara and friends

Amara and friends

The only current commissioner who has made a public effort to do anything remotely serious about human rights abuses, of which there are many, was Niran Pithakwatchara.

So PPT expected the worst when the names of the proposed new commissioners for the NHRC. We were surprised to see one high-profile activist, being Angkhana Neelaphaijit, who has criticized the military at various times. Most of the rest are loyal royalist bureaucrats.

More significant for the future of this useless organization, however, is the nomination of ultra-royalist Boworn Yasintorn. Both Khaosod and Prachatai have stories regarding the nomination of this campaigning yellow shirt.

Boworn, as well as supporting anti-democrats campaigning against elected governments, has formed and led several royalist groups that not only promote the monarchy but actively hunt those they consider anti-monarchists or republicans, seeking to have them jailed. His Thai Facebook page provides a vivid illustration of his ultra-royalism.

At various times, Boworn has been described as a leader of the “multicolors” who were yellow shirts without their royal colors and organized to support the Abhisit regime and oppose red shirts and the electoral prospects of any pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Party. Later, he was reported as forming the “Students Centre of Thailand” that was made up of adults and former student activists rather than current students. Its role was as a “disorganizer” and spoiler organization to undermine the Students Federation of Thailand.

He was behind other groups, mostly royalist vigilantes, including being reported as President of the Network of Volunteer Citizens to Protect the Monarchy on Facebook and Citizens Volunteer For Defence Of Three Institutes Network. Both groups have brought lese majeste complaints against political opponents.

In fact, as we think about it, Boworn is probably the most suitable appointment to this hopeless organization. He is a living, breathing symbol of its destruction.

Human rights in Thailand are a pile of royalist rubble.

Update: Prachatai has another perspective on the demise of the NHRC.

 





Angkhana’s open letter to Yingluck on human rights/อังคณา นีละพิจิตร เรียกร้องนายกรัฐมนตรี

11 03 2013

An Open Letter from the Justice for Peace Foundation to Prime Minister of Thailand forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

THAILAND: Angkhana Neelapaijit urges Prime Minister to not allow the culture of impunity in Thailand regarding Disappearance lawyer Somchai 9 years anniversary

10 March 2013

Her Excellency, the Prime Minister, Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra

Dear Madam Prime Minister,

My name is Angkhana Neelapaijit, wife of Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit, a human rights lawyer who had given legal aid to alleged offenders in security related cases in Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces. Mr. Somchai was abducted by police officers on 12 March 2004, after he lodged his complaints regarding the alleged abuse of alleged offenders by the police. After the enforced disappearance of Mr. Somchai, the Former Prime Minister, Pol Lt Col Thaksin Shinawatra admitted that he might have died. The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) accepted to work on the case of Mr. Somchai as a special case since 19 July 2005. Pol Gen Sombat Amonrwiwat, former DSI Director General, was the person in charge of the investigation. Eight years past, the case now falls under the charge of the current DSI Director General, Mr. Tharit Pengdit and you, as the PM is the Chairperson of the Committee on Special Cases ex officio. Yet, the investigation has so far born no fruit.

Previously, I have written to inquire the Minister of Justice, Pol Gen Pracha Promnok regarding progress in the investigation of Mr. Somchai’s case. Then, he gave me a one pager summary prepared by DSI indicating that there has been no progress as to the investigation in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. This happens so despite that the case has been handled by DSI for eight years.

Your Excellency, you may not be aware, but the enforced disappearance of Mr. Somchai was the first case of its kind in Thailand that affected parties have been able to get the case prosecuted and indicted. In addition, his case is not just known in Thailand, but all over the world. It is a public case that has massively compromised trust in Thailand’s justice process and the upholding of human rights and the rule of law in Thailand. It has elicited salient attention from national and international rights organizations all along, including the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since it was a crime of enforced disappearance committed by law enforcement officers. And apart from the five police officers who are the accused in this case, it is believed that a number of high ranking police officers were involved and have not been brought to justice.

Nevertheless, I would like to commend your government for signing a landmark international instrument, the UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 9 January 2012. The ascension to the treaty indicates a very important determination to uphold human rights in Thailand through the prevention of enforced disappearance. In addition, in September 2012, the cabinet agreed to provide the amount of 7.5 millions baht as remedies to the family of Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit. In the same occasion, the amount of 500,000 – 7.5 millions baht were provided for 30 families of those disappeared in Southern Border Provinces. It is believed that they were made disappeared by government officers.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation that your government has decided to provide remedies to people whose human rights have been affected by governmental officers including the enforced disappearance cases in the Southern Border Provinces. Remedies are an indispensible right of the victims. But apart from upholding the right to access truth, it is equally important to uphold justice and ensure that there shall be no recurrence of human rights violation. And monetary remedies alone are not enough to erase the trauma and wound in the hearts of the survivors. I fervently believe that only through access to truth and justice that dignity of the survivors shall be restored and it would lead to lasting forgiveness and reconciliation.

I am writing this letter to you as you are the highest leadership of the country and as you are in charge of DSI. I want to bring to your attention the ineffectiveness and unwillingness of the government and DSI to solve the case of Mr. Somchai. It is too obvious that in recent time, DSI has simply been concentrating on political cases, particularly cases against the opposition party, but at the same time, has been neglecting and giving no proper attention to cases that affect ordinary people, even though they are victims of human rights abuse perpetuated by government officers who take side with the government.

Last but not least, I really hope that you as the PM are willing to listen to voice of people who have been abused by governmental officers. The abuses took place during the tenure of those leaderships from the same political party as yours. I sincerely hope that you shall be responsible for what happened and shall not be discriminating in the enforcement of law and will not allow the culture of impunity to perpetuate in Thailand.

Yours sincerely,

Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit

จดหมายเปิดผนึกโดยมูลนิธิยุติธรรมเพื่อสันติภาพ ส่งต่อโดยคณะกรรมาธิการสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งเอเชีย (Asian Human Rights Commission: AHRC)

ประเทศไทย: อังคณา นีละพิจิตร เรียกร้องนายกรัฐมนตรีไม่อนุญาตให้มีการได้รับการยกเว้นโทษในประเทศไทยเนื่องในวาระครบรอบการ

10 มีนาคม 2556

เรียน ท่านนายกรัฐมนตรี นางสาวยิ่งลักษณ์ ชินวัตร

ดิฉัน นางอังคณา นีละไพจิตร ภรรยานายสมชาย นีละไพจิตร ทนายความสิทธิมนุษยชนที่ให้ความช่วยเหลือทางคดีแก่ผู้ต้องหาคดีความมั่นคงในจังหวัดชายแดนภาคใต้ ซึ่งถูกลักพาตัวโดยเจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจเมื่อวันที่ ๑๒ มีนาคม ๒๕๔๗ หลังจากที่นายสมชายได้ร้องเรียนเรื่องการที่เจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจซ้อมทรมานผู้ต้องหา ภายหลังการหายตัวไปของนายสมชาย พ.ต.ท.ทักษิณ ชินวัตร ได้ยอมรับว่านายสมชาย นีละไพจิตรเสียชีวิตแล้ว และกรมสอบสวนคดีพิเศษได้รับคดีสมชายไว้เป็นคดีพิเศษตั้งแต่วันที่ ๑๙ กรกฎาคม ๒๕๔๘ โดยได้มอบหมายให้พล.ต.อ.สมบัติ อมรวิวัฒน์ อธิบดีกรมสอบสวนคดีพิเศษในขณะนั้นเป็นผู้รับผิดชอบคดี จนถึงปัจจุบันผ่านมา ๘ ปีคดีสมชาย นีละไพจิตร ภายใต้ความรับผิดชอบของอธิบดีกรมสอบสวนคดีพิเศษ ที่ปัจจุบันมีนายธาริต เพ็งดิษ เป็นอธิบดีและท่านนายกรัฐมนตรี ในฐานะประธานคณะกรรมการคดีพิเศษไม่ปรากฏความก้าวหน้าใดๆในทางการสืบสวนสอบสวน

ที่ผ่านมา ดิฉันได้เคยเรียนถามท่านรัฐมนตรีว่าการกระทรวงยุติธรรม พลตำรวจเอกประชา พรหมนอก ถึงความก้าวหน้าคดีสมชาย ซึ่งท่านรัฐมนตรีว่าการกระทรวงยุติธรรมได้มอบเอกสารสรุปคดีสมชายจากกรมสอบสวนคดีพิเศษเป็นกระดาษ ๑ แผ่น สรุปความได้ว่า ไม่ปรากฏความก้าวหน้าใดๆในการสืบสวนสอบสวนเพื่อหาตัวผู้กระทำผิด ทั้งที่กรมสอบสวนคดีพิเศษรับดำเนินการคดีสมชาย นีละไพจิตร เป็นระยะเวลา ๘ ปี

ท่านนายกรัฐมนตรีอาจไม่ทราบว่า คดีสมชายเป็นคดีการบังคับบุคคลให้สูญหายคดีแรกของประเทศไทยที่เหยื่อสามารถต่อสู้จนคดีถูกนำขึ้นสู่การพิจารณาของศาลยุติธรรม คดีสมชาย นีละไพจิตร มิได้เป็นที่รับรู้เฉพาะในประเทศ แต่คดีนี้ถือเป็นคดีสาธารณะที่ส่งผลต่อประเด็นเรื่องความเชื่อมั่นในกระบวนการยุติธรรม สิทธิมนุษยชน และหลักนิติธรรมของประเทศไทย คดีสมชายได้รับความสนใจจากองค์กรสิทธิมนุษยชนทั้งในประเทศและระหว่างประเทศที่ให้ความสนใจและติดตามอย่างต่อเนื่อง รวมทั้งองค์การสหประชาชาติ และองค์การความร่วมมืออิสลาม (OIC) เนื่องจากคดีนี้เป็นคดีการลักพาตัวและบังคับบุคคลากรในกระบวนการยุติธรรมให้สูญหาย ซึ่งเกิดจากการกระทำของเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐในกระบวนการยุติธรรม ซึ่งนอกจากเจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจ 5 นายที่ตกเป็นผู้ต้องหาในคดีแล้ว ยังมีผู้ที่เกี่ยวข้องที่เป็นเจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจระดับสูงอีกหลายนายที่รัฐยังไม่สามารถนำตัวเข้าสู่กระบวนการยุติธรรมได้

อย่างไรก็ดี ดิฉันต้องขอชื่นชมรัฐบาลภายใต้การนำของท่านนายกรัฐมนตรี ที่ได้ลงนามอนุสัญญาระหว่างประเทศว่าด้วยการคุ้มครองบุคคลทุกคนมิให้สูญหายโดยถูกบังคับ (International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance) ขององค์การสหประชาชาติ เมื่อวันที่ ๙ มกราคม ๒๕๕๕ ซึ่งการลงนามในอนุสัญญาฯถือเป็นการแสดงเจตนารมณ์ด้านสิทธิมนุษยชนที่สำคัญยิ่งอีกครั้งหนึ่งของประเทศไทยในการคุ้มครองบุคคลจากการสูญหายโดยถูกบังคับ อีกทั้งเมื่อเดือนกันยายน ๒๕๕๕ คณะรัฐมนตรีได้มีมติให้เยียวยาเพื่อมนุษยธรรมครอบครัวสมชาย นีละไพจิตร เป็นจำนวนเงิน ๗.๕ ล้านบาท รวมถึงครอบครัวผู้ถูกบังคับสูญหายในจังหวัดชายแดนภาคใต้ที่เชื่อได้ว่าเกิดจากการกระทำของเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐอีก ๓๐ ครอบครัว เป็นจำนวนเงิน ๕๐๐,๐๐๐ – ๗.๕ ล้านบาท

ดิฉันขอแสดงความชื่นชมอย่างจริงใจ ที่รัฐบาลของท่านมีมติให้เยียวยาผู้ถูกละเมิดสิทธิมนุษยชนที่เกิดจากการกระทำของเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐ รวมถึงกรณีการบังคับสูญหายในจังหวัดชายแดนภาคใต้ เพราะการเยียวยาเป็นสิทธิสำคัญประการหนึ่งของเหยื่อ นอกเหนือจากสิทธิในการเข้าถึงความจริง ความยุติธรรมและการสร้างหลักประกันว่าการละเมิดสิทธิมนุษยชนดังกล่าวจะไม่เกิดซ้ำ แต่การเยียวยาด้วยเงินเพียงอย่างเดียวไม่อาจขจัดความทรงจำบาดแผลของเหยื่อให้หมดสิ้นไปได้ ดิฉันเชื่อว่าเฉพาะการเข้าถึงความจริง และความยุติธรรมเท่านั้นที่จะเป็นการคืนศักดิ์ศรีให้กับเหยื่อและจะสามารถนำสู่การให้อภัยและการปรองดองอย่างยั่งยืน

ดิฉันมีหนังสือฉบับนี้มายังท่านนายกรัฐมนตรีในฐานะที่ท่านเป็นผู้บริหารสูงสุดของประเทศ และเป็นผู้กำกับดูแลกรมสอบสวนคดีพิเศษ เพื่อเรียนให้ท่านทราบถึงความไร้ประสิทธิภาพและความไม่เต็มใจในการคลี่คลายคดี สมชาย นีละไพจิตร ของรัฐบาลและกรมสอบสวนคดีพิเศษ เพราะย่อมเป็นที่ประจักษ์แก่สังคมว่า ปัจจุบันกรมสอบสวนคดีพิเศษมุ่งเน้นและให้ความสำคัญในการทำคดีการเมืองโดยเฉพาะคดีที่เกี่ยวกับพรรคการเมืองฝ่ายตรงข้าม แต่ละเลย เลือกปฏิบัติ และไม่ให้ความสำคัญแก่คดีที่ประชาชนสามัญตกเป็นเหยื่อจากการละเมิดสิทธิมนุษยชนจากการกระทำของเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐ โดยเฉพาะเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐที่อยู่ในฟากรัฐบาล

ท้ายนี้ ดิฉันหวังอย่างยิ่งว่า ท่านในฐานะนายกรัฐมนตรีจะยินดีที่จะรับฟังเสียงคนสามัญที่ถูกละเมิดจากการกระทำของเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐที่เกิดขึ้นในรัฐบาลของท่านในอดีต จะรับผิด และรับผิดชอบในสิ่งที่เกิดขึ้น จะไม่เลือกปฏิบัติในการบังคับใช้กฎหมาย และจะไม่ปล่อยให้วัฒนธรรมผู้กระทำผิดลอยนวลยังคงเกิดขึ้นในสังคมไทย

ขอแสดงความนับถือ

นางอังคณา นีละไพจิตร





The fate of those who faced the magic wand

13 09 2012

An AFP report has received fairly wide attention because it refers to perhaps hundreds of people locked up in part because of being caught/identified by the “magic wand” known as the GT200.

As almost everyone knows, that GT200 was a not too elaborate hoax explosives-cum-drug “detector” that the report refers to as “bogus.” The report notes that:

Human rights activists say more than 400 people have been locked up – some for up to two years – on the basis of spurious evidence gleaned by the device, which is at the centre of a British fraud probe.

This is because the GT200 became the army’s main detection tool for gunpowder residues and bombs. This despite the fact that:

Evidence debunking the powers of the GT200 – sold by Britain-based Global Technical Ltd – has long been in circulation, with experts describing it as little more than a radio aerial stuck on a useless piece of plastic despite the company’s claims that it can detect explosives from hundreds of metres away.

Angkhana Neelapaijit of the Justice for Peace foundation states that “[p]eople in the south knew the GT200 was fake from the first time it was used” back in 2007. She adds that “the Thai authorities refused to listen… all trust in the government and army has been lost.”

Even now, the report states that “the powerful military has refused to concede it was duped over its rumoured $20 million acquisition, or apologise to those held in what rights groups say is a flagrant miscarriage of justice.” In addition, the Army “refutes accusations of arbitrary detentions based on the faulty device.”

The talking heads at the Army refute so many things in circumstances that show they are simply lying, that no sensible person believes anything they say.

This time the “spokesperson/fabricator” is Colonel Pramote Promin of the Internal Security Operations Command who says: “It might be a hallucination but we found (weapons) many times. It might be a fluke or coincidence that it worked,” adding that the GT200’s effectiveness could be “something above science“. The work of a mysterious demi-god perhaps?

At least it seems that the Army has “stopped mass round-ups of men for ‘wanding’ by the device, which were commonplace between 2007 and 2010, according to locals in Yala and Pattani provinces.” But they still use it for checking vehicles and roads for bombs….

That doesn’t help the unfortunate ones who are locked up for alleged crimes resulting in part from magic wanding.





Five human rights defenders

9 07 2012

PPT passes on this emailed message as received:

Somchai Neelapajit Memorial Fund reveals Five Human Rights Defenders Shortlisted for its Award

(9 July 2012) The five shortlisted candidates for the 2012 Somchai Neelapajit Award are: 1. Ms Jittra Kotchadej Labour rights and political rights activist 2. Mr Rasada Manurasada Human rights lawyer for victims of violence in Southern Thailand and in other parts of the country 3. Mr Somyot Prueksakasemsuk Labor rights activist and political activist (currently detained in prison) 4. Mr Adisorn Kerdmongkol Expert on the rights of migrant workers 5. Udon Thani Environment Group Grassroots network of villagers that are defending the community rights from Potash Industry.

Out of these names, there will be one person/ group which will receive the 2012 Somchai Neelaphajit Award together with 50,000 Thai Baht. The other four will receive Outstanding Human Rights Defender Award with prize money of 10,000 Thai Baht.

Jon Ungpakorn, a Committee member and Founder of Somchai Neelapaijit Memorial Fund, said that Thailand has been suffering from problems concerning human rights violations from both state agencies as well as from state mechanisms. The five names that are shortlisted for this award are those that have fought to protect human rights bravely, vigorously, and at times they have put themselves in danger in order to defend human rights just like the disappeared human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit. Somchai had fought on behalf of human rights principles until he was a victim of enforced disappearance. This award aims to honor and support human rights defenders who have dedicated their lives in working to protect human rights. It also aims to communicate to Thai society to recognize the important roles that these individuals/group play as well as to shed light on the human rights problems in Thailand.

The award giving ceremony will take place from 9.30am to 12.00pm on 11 July 2012 at Conference Room, 4th Floor, Thai Volunteer Service, Soi Rohitkul, Pracharat Bampen Road (Huay Kwang station MRT stop). Apart from the ceremony, there will be a panel discussion on the topic of “The road of struggle and experiences of Thai human rights defenders” by all five shortlisted individuals as well as a closing remark by Dr Charnvit Kasetsiri.

Somchai Neelapaijit Fund had opened up the public nomination for individuals and organizations to nominate people and organizations from February to April 2012. There are 20 individuals and organizations that have been nominated. They represented broad and diverse groups of human right defenders ranging from those working on community development, volunteering, and combating injustice. Five names have been shortlisted while one out of the five will be given the award. There are four criteria for the selection namely: 1) The recipient(s) of the award works to promote and protect the human rights on issues that are related to the public interest; 2) The recipient(s) has outstanding record; 3) The recipient(s) has not been given an award on human rights before; 4) The recipient(s) works on issue of human rights that is contemporary and are still discussed in the society and he/she has risk from being attacked or violated for his/her /their human rights work.

Somchai Neelapaijit Memorial Fund starts to give out Somchai Neelapaijit Award with the intention to honor and give support to those who play important roles and has dedicated them to promote and protect human rights in Thailand. The Fund also aims to provoke Thai society to see the importance and recognize the roles that human rights defenders play. The award is an open process whereby anyone can make nomination. This is the first year that the award is given out.

How to get to the Venue:

If you travel by MRT, get off at Huay Kwang MRT Stop. Get of exit to Pracharat Bampen Road. Take a motorcycle taxi to Summer Mansion. Thai Volunteer Service Building is at the far end of the Soi.

Please register your attendance at: http://bit.ly/PcbXyQ

For more information, please contact Ms Thaweeporn at 0898291167

See Google Map of the venue : http://goo.gl/maps/28De

Agenda of Somchai Neelaphaijit Awarding Ceremony 2012 

11 July 2012, 9.30am – 12.00pm

Conference Room, Fourth Floor, Thai Volunteer Service, Huay Kwang, Bangkok

9.30 – 10.00am: Registration

10.00-10.30am: Introduction by Master of Ceremony

•  Opening session by Ms Angkhana Neelaphaijit, Committee member of Somchai Neelaphaijit Memorial Fund

• History of Somchai Neelaphaijit’s fund and the Award by Jon Ungpakorn, Committee member of Somchai Neelaphaijit Memorial Fund

10.30 – 10.45am: Announcment and presentation of Somchai Neelapaijit Award and Certificates for Outstanding Human Rights Defenders

• Award presentation by Dr Charnvit Kasetsiri, historian professor and former Rector of Thammasat University

10.45am – 12.00pm: A panel discussion entiteld “On the Trail of Struggle: Lessons Learned from Human Rights Defenders” featuring:

• Awardee of Somchai Neelapaijit Award

• 4 Reciepients of Certificates for Outstanding Human Rights Defenders

• Moderated by Ruj Komonbut, assistant professor at the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication, Thammasat University and Committee member of Somchai Neelaphaijit Memorial Fund

12.00pm: Closing speech by Dr Charnvit Kasetsiri





Updated: Another birthday, same old nonsense

12 08 2011

Royal birthday speeches by the queen are a mixture of royal back-slapping, political statement, long-held preferences and wishes about a country that is no longer what she hoped it was or would be. Essentially, Thailand has passed her by. She has almost no connection to the real world of Thai lives and politics. But that doesn’t mean that she isn’t influential and potentially dangerous. Her recent birthday speech illustrates all of this.

As the Economist has reiterated and as Wikileaks made clear, the queen is close to the royalist Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha who is amongst the most hawkish of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-red shirt  leadership of the military. As the magazine states, his views “reflect those of Queen Sirikit, his patron.”

This year’s birthday speech, as reported in The Nation, has the queen mourning the virtually unknown and mentally-challenged Princess Bejaratana who died recently, giving her support to yet another hopelessly expensive royal funeral that has been ordered by Princess Sirindhorn, the expense falling to taxpayers. These events are as much about supporting the ideological, social and economic position of the living royals as they are about any real mourning.

Being a rabid, nationalist Buddhist – a bit like some of those who are her supporters in the People’s Alliance for Democracy – she also outlined a plan to erect a “32-metre-tall Buddha statue at a Kanchanaburi temple in memory of the giant Buddha statues destroyed in Afghanistan a few years ago.”

As she and the king do every year, she called on “all Thais to unite as a nation for common prosperity, as expressed and encouraged in the national anthem.” She then praised the king and all of his “good works.” Recall that some royals want more emphasis on this as they feel the little people have forgotten how wonderful the royals are.

The queen then got into some deeply worrying political areas. Wikileaks reminds us that the aged queen urged a coup in 2008 and some very senior people reckoned she was a driving force behind the 2006 coup. And the Economist has recalled her “destructive partisanship, particularly towards yellow-shirt protesters in 2008, has been a public-relations disaster (amply detailed in American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks).” PPT assumes that part of this assessment by the Economist has to do with her support for armed and violent responses by Buddhist Thais in the deep south. She again commented on the south in this speech, mentioning a need for tolerance, but concentrating on Buddhist Thais rather than the toture and repression carried out by the military and police again Malay Muslims.

In this speech, the queen also returned to a favored topic in the palace: anti-drugs efforts. This topic, broached with Thaksin in the king’s 2002 birthday speech in  led the the human rights disaster that was Thaksin Shinawatra’s ill-conceived and poorly implemented War on Drugs.

In that speech, as reported by The Nation, the king:

urged his subjects to take an active part in the national effort to eliminate the illicit drug trade, which he described as a scourge of Thai society, in his traditional birthday speech…. The King acknowledged the prime minister’s speech, which catalogued royal contributions to a wide range of national development initiatives and their achievements in raising the living standards of the people, eliminating social ills and bringing about the general happiness of his subjects. But he said the prime minister had omitted to mention his decades-old dedication to stamping out illicit drugs, which have done so much damage to individuals and society, resulting in rising public health costs, social ills and the deployment of huge financial resources for drug suppression.

In her recent speech, as reported by the Bangkok Post, the queen

urged collective efforts by the government and the public to fight drug abuse which she said was “spreading more than quickly than germs.” She said His Majesty had made great efforts in urging hilltribe people to switch from growing opium to other crops. The country, however, is being used as a drug trafficking corridor and for production as well. She condemned those involved in the illicit business as cold-blooded murderers.

She added: “I feel unsettled hearing that drugs are rampant and available in every nook and corner and in schools…. They are acting like murderers, killing their own children in cold blood.”

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was required to give a birthday and welcome speech, had to praise the queen – it’s compulsory. She “praised the Queen’s dedication and many projects that improved people’s lives, while emphasising the government’s appreciation of her good deeds and its loyalty to her and the monarchy.” We trust that her brother’s problems in following royal advice will be a warning for her and that she’ll be more cautious about a war on drugs proposed by another old war horse.

Update: It is with considerable dismay that we read that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is reported to have found it appropriate to state that her government will follow the queen’s “advice” regarding opposing drugs in the country. As we noted above, when Thaksin followed the king’s advice in 2003, a human rights disaster resulted. We would hope that Yingluck’s statement is simply a matter of royal posterior polishing.

At least one human rights organization has heard alarm bells. We think it significant that Angkhana Neelaphaijit, chairwoman of the Justice for Peace Foundation, has spoken out immediately following the queen’s speech.

Angkhana is right to warn that a War on Drugs like that under Thaksin must be avoided at all cost. Yingluck must show that her government can deal with complex social problems while promoting human rights.





Stories worth reading

14 03 2011

There are a bunch of useful stories worth reading, although PPT is having trouble getting to them. So we thought listing them for readers might be a way of ensuring that attention is given to these accounts:

MCOT: “Four more leaders of the red-shirted United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on Monday surrendered to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) after being on the run for nine months with outstanding arrest warrants for terrorism, and were later granted releases on bail. Suporn Atthawong, Payap Panket, Chinnawat Haboonpad, and Waipoj Arpornrat turned themselves in at DSI headquarters Monday morning but denied all charges and posed Bt600,000 as bail bond for each.” They seem keen to stand in any upcoming election. Jim Taylor has more on this at Prachatai.

MCOT: “Police have withdrawn from the protest site of Thailand’s yellow-clad activist movement, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), on Rajdamnoen Nok Avenue after their deployment there stirred fears among demonstrators that the police might try to disperse their months-long rally.” The story on the massed police attempt to clear PAD toilets is quite funny.

Bangkok Post: “Thailand is well suited to democracy, thanks to its extensive civil society and a high level of social trust, a renowned American professor said…. Robert D Putnam, of Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School of Government, was speaking at a seminar titled “Community and Democracy: Why Civil Society is Essential to Democratic Reform” held at Chulalongkorn University yesterday…. Mr Putnam said democracy required a lot of work, time and strong social capital or civil society. He pointed out how the United States saw rapid political changes during the 1910s due to intense social capital interactions and at other times on the ups and downs of social capital, including the Great Depression, the country’s longest period of high unemployment and poverty.”

PPT is not aware that Professor Putnam knows anything at all about Thailand. We think he confuses social capital and political activism and largely ignores political power and ideology as a driving forces behind civil society organizations. Bringing in the “experts” is a long tradition when Thailand faces crisis and doesn’t often lead far. Recall the junta government bringing in a bunch of experts to “discuss” sufficiency economy.

Asia Provocateur by Andrew Spooner has a story on a death threat received by Jitra Kotchadej, who was involved in a protest against Abhisit Vejjajiva a few days ago.

AHRC has a Forwarded Press Release on “Angkhana Neelaphaijit, the chairperson of the Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF), released a statement on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) during the presentation of the joint report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention during meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. In the statement, the JPF and the ICJ called for the Thai government accept the request to visit by the Working Groups and for the Working Groups to work with the Thai government to end arbitrary detention and to bring to light the fate of people who have been disappeared.”





On the emergency decree

6 09 2010

Bangkok and several provinces remain under the provisions of the emergency decree, months after it was first instituted against red shirt protesters. The Bangkok Post has a special report on the decree, worth reading in full. Some of the points made include:

The decree gives the state sweeping authority to ban public gatherings of more than five people which could be determined as a potential cause of unrest. It also allows restrictions on news media and other forms of communications which might contain content seen as provocative, and it restricts the use of public streets or vehicles and allows for certain areas to be declared off-limits. It is not clear how many people have been held for violating the emergency decree. But the Justice Ministry, in June, reported that about 100 suspects had been detained.

On the numbers held, see PPT’s earlier post.

Human rights advocates and university lecturers warn that any further extension of the decree will do more harm than good to the country. They say the government must revoke the decree in all provinces where it remains in effect as soon as possible. They also question whether the government continues to impose it simply as a tool to suppress its opponents.

PPT was interested in some of these comments.

Angkhana Neelaphaijit of the Working Group on Justice and Peace said the decree was “exacerbating the discord between the authorities and the UDD supporters.” She added that the decree had “violated the basic human rights of those arrested under the security law.” She pointed out that the decree had been in place in the south for several years: “There, many of those arrested have disappeared after release from detention.”

Wilaiwan Sae-tia of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee also stated that “the decree had limited the freedom of expression and right of assembly of social activists over the past five months.” She complained: “We can’t carry out any social activities and we don’t even have the chance to express our opinions or [have the right to] demand that the government solves our problems…”.

Meanwhile, Somchai Preechasilpakul, from the law faculty at Chiang Mai University, said “the emergency decree was aimed more at getting rid of the government’s opponents than it was at keeping the peace.” He pointed out that in the north, “many community radio stations in Chiang Mai had been shut down because they were critical of the government. Red shirt supporters have also been reportedly arrested and have since disappeared.”

They are contradicted by die-hard security advocate and acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the “government needed to evaluate the situation very carefully before lifting the emergency decree in the remaining seven provinces. It would have to look at the impact the emergency was having on tourism and investment. He could look at the Bangkok Post’s photo below and wonder what tourists think.