HRW on continuing detentions

21 04 2021

Human Rights WatchHuman Rights Watch has released a statement on the continuing detention of political activists. We reproduce it in full, including with links HRW had embedded:

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately release pro-democracy activists detained on charges of insulting the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. Prominent Thammasat University students Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul have been on hunger strike to protest their pre-trial detention, for 35 days and 21 days respectively.

The charges against Parit, Panusaya, and others should be dropped for violating their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Until then, bail should be provided for all those detained under the lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) law. Hunger strikers should be transferred to a hospital for medical supervision.

“Thai authorities should immediately drop the cases against Parit, Panusaya, and others unjustly charged for their peaceful pro-democracy protests, but at a minimum they should be released on bail,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Holding activists in detention prior to trial and conviction, which could be years away, seems aimed to unfairly punish them rather than fulfill a legitimate state interest.”

On March 8, 2021, the Bangkok Criminal Court ordered Panusaya, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, and Panupong Jadnok into pre-trial detention on lese majeste charges connected to the speeches they made demanding reforms of the monarchy during a rally on September 19, 2020. The cases follow the court’s February 9 decision to order four other prominent democracy activists – Parit, Arnon Nampha, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem – into pre-trial detention on similar charges.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code makes lese majeste punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The activists were also charged with sedition under Criminal Code article 116, which carries a maximum 7-year sentence. These cases are just the latest in which Thai activists charged with lese majeste have been detained for lengthy periods that could go on for years until their trial is concluded, Human Rights Watch said.

Except for Patiwat, who gave a statement in court on March 29 that he would no longer participate in rallies and other political activities or make public comments about the monarchy, the court has repeatedly denied the activists’ bail requests, saying they are likely to commit the alleged offenses again if released.

Holding those charged with lese majeste in pretrial detention violates their rights under international human rights law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those whose charges have not been dropped should be tried without undue delay, Human Rights Watch said.

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand has significantly increased in the past year, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste prosecutions were not brought before the courts, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, in November, ordered the authorities to restore lese majeste prosecutions, ostensibly because of growing criticisms of the monarchy. Since then, officials have charged at least 82 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at pro-democracy rallies or comments on social media.

In a February 8 statement on the situation in Thailand, United Nations human rights experts said that lese majeste laws have “no place in a democratic country.” They also expressed serious concerns about the growing number of lese majeste prosecutions and harsh prison sentences the courts have meted out to some defendants. On January 19, a retired civil servant, Anchan Preelert, received an 87-year prison sentence, later halved after she pleaded guilty.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, states that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should stop this witch hunt against peaceful dissenters and demonstrate respect for human rights by permitting all viewpoints,” Adams said. “The government should engage with United Nations experts and others about amending the lese majeste law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”





HRW on arrests

20 08 2020

Human Rights Watch has issued a note on some of the recent arrests of political activists:

Thailand: Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists
Thailand: Drop Charges, Free Democracy Activists Authorities Disregard Own Pledge to Allow Dissent

(New York) – Thai authorities should immediately drop all charges and unconditionally release prominent pro-democracy activists arbitrarily detained for their role in peaceful protests, Human Rights Watch said today. On August 19, 2020, Thai police separately arrested Arnon Nampha, Baramee Chairat, Suwanna Tanlek, and Korakot Saengyenphan, charged them with sedition and other offenses, and jailed them.

“The Thai government’s repeated promises to listen to dissenting voices have proven meaningless as the crackdown on pro-democracy activists continues unabated,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The authorities should right their wrong and immediately drop the charges and release Arnon and other detained activists.”

Police arrested Arnon, a defense lawyer with the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, outside the Bangkok Criminal Court after he finished his day’s cases. He was charged with sedition, which carries a maximum seven-year prison term, assembly with an intent to cause violence, violating the ban on public gatherings, and other criminal offenses related to his involvement in a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on August 3. At the protest, he wore a Harry Potter costume and publicly demanded reforms to bring Thailand’s monarchy into conformance with democratic constitutional principles. The police detained him at the Chanasongkram Police Station in Bangkok.

Three other activists – including Baramee from the Assembly of the Poor in Bangkok, Suwanna from the June 24 for Democracy Movement, and Korakot from the Democracy Restoration Group – also face sedition and other charges similar to those brought against Arnon. They have been detained at Bangkok’s Samranrat Police Station.

The police previously arrested Arnon on similar charges together with another pro-democracy activist, Panupong Jadnok, on August 7. A week later, on August 14, the police arrested a well-known student leader, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, bringing similar accusations.

These six activists are among 31 people whom the police were purportedly seeking to arrest for speaking onstage at a protest sponsored by the Free Youth Movement in Bangkok on July 18. Since the Free Youth Movement held that peaceful protest in front of the Democracy Monument demanding democracy, political reforms, and respect for human rights, youth-led protests by various groups have spread across in Thailand. The largest protest was in Bangkok on August 16, with more than 20,000 participants calling for the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution, respect for freedom of expression, and reforms of the institution of the monarchy to curb the current monarch’s powers.

Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has denied that he ordered the police to arrest the activists and has maintained his pledge to listen to the youth protests. “There has been no order from the prime minister to target those activists,” General Prayuth said during a media interview on August 15. “The police simply use their own judgment and carry out their duty to uphold the law. In the current situation all sides should be reasonable and listen [to each other]. We need to avoid provocation and confrontation.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, protects the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. However, Thai authorities have routinely enforced censorship and gagged public discussions about human rights, political reforms, and the role of the monarchy in society. Over the past decade, hundreds of activists and dissidents have been prosecuted on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) for the peaceful expression of their views.

Government repression has intensified in Thailand over the past five months as the authorities used state of emergency powers assumed by the government to help control the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to ban anti-government protests and harass pro-democracy activists.

International pressure is urgently needed to press the Thai government to end the crackdown on pro-democracy activists and peaceful protests, and release those arbitrarily detained, Human Rights Watch said.

“The United Nations and concerned governments should speak out publicly against the rolling political repression in Thailand,” Adams said. “Thai youth are increasingly demanding real progress toward democracy and the rule of law so they can freely express their visions for the future of the country.”





Updated: Assassins and other thugs

9 06 2019

PPT has posted a lot on the most recent tactics employed by the military junta in silencing opponents: murdering them and bashing them.

We can be pretty sure that these gruesome murders and repeated assaults are the work of the regime and its associated thugs because it does nothing to investigate the attacks. That some activists were reported as extradited to Thailand and have then gone missing also suggests high-level collusion with the regime on enforced disappearance.

The reason for these murders and attacks is to frighten and silence political opponents and critics of the monarchy.

In recent weeks, the international media has taken up these stories and especially those associated with the radical band Faiyen.

Over the weekend, a syndicated report in Australian newspapers on these events and their links has been widely circulated on social media. “They sent an assassination squad: Thai exiles speak of life in fear” by Michael Ruffles is well worth reading. One particular point, by Faiyen band member Worravut “Tito” Thueakchaiyaphum was striking:

I am not a criminal, and thinking differently about the monarch is not criminal. Criticising the monarchy should not be a death sentence….

We are not criminals. We want our struggle to be known internationally. This is a liberty and freedom people should have to think differently. We hope the brutality and barbaric acts of the Thai junta will be condemned.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch is also quoted:

They are [seen to be] enemies of the palace….

There’s no evidence because there’s no investigation….

Laos has responded as if nothing has happened. What has made them turn a blind eye? When the bodies appeared it should have been a red light. What happened? Nothing.

All the combined signals, even though there’s no clear evidence, suggest someone significant enough to put them under the rug. It has to be someone really powerful to influence authorities in two countries.

Royalist Thailand, under a military junta, is increasingly lawless. The use of violence is likely to continue under a shaky government led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha who will rely heavily on the king for maintaining his “new” regime.

Update: Read Human Rights Watch on the recent attacks on junta critics. It urges Thai authorities to “urgently and impartially investigate [these] assaults…”. It also reveals that the regime is ignoring these attacks: “Police told Human Rights Watch that security cameras in the area were either broken or blocked by trees, so they have no footage of the assailants…”. Even if there was, the police would do nothing. Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, makes the obvious point: “The failure of Thai authorities to seriously investigate these assaults both encourages future attacks and suggests a possible role by officials.” We suspect that this is a preview of the way the junta-cum-Palang Pracharath plans to “manage” its regime.





No justice

19 05 2019

Human Right Watch has issued a statement on the anniversary of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s bloody military crackdown on red shirt protesters in 2010. We reproduce bits of it here.

Thai authorities have failed to punish policymakers, military commanders, and soldiers responsible for the deadly crackdown on “Red Shirt” protests in May 2010, Human Rights Watch said today. On May 4, 2019, the military prosecutor decided not to indict eight soldiers accused of fatally shooting six civilians in Bangkok’s Wat Pathumwanaram temple on May 19, 2010.

“Despite overwhelming evidence, Thai authorities have failed to hold officials accountable for gunning down protesters, medics, and reporters during the bloody crackdown in 2010,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The military prosecutor’s decision to drop the case against eight soldiers is the latest insult to families of victims who want justice.”

The military prosecutor dismissed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence and no witnesses to the killing. This decision contradicted the Bangkok Criminal Court’s inquest in August 2013, which found that the residue of bullets inside the victims’ bodies was the same type of ammunition issued to soldiers operating in the area at the time of the shooting. Based on information from the Justice Ministry’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), witness accounts, and other evidence, the inquest concluded that soldiers from the Ranger Battalion, Special Force Group 2, Erawan Military Camp fired their assault rifles into the temple from their positions on the elevated train track in front of Wat Pathumwanaram temple….

According to the DSI, at least 98 people died and more than 2,000 were injured….

The high number of casualties—including unarmed protesters, volunteer medics, reporters, photographers, and bystanders—resulted in part from the government’s enforcement of “live fire zones” around the UDD protest sites in Bangkok, where sharpshooters and snipers were deployed….

All those criminally responsible should be held to account whatever their political affiliation or official position. But over the past nine years, there have been a series of cover-ups that have ensured impunity for senior government officials and military personnel. Successive Thai governments charged UDD leaders and supporters with serious criminal offenses but ignored rights abuses by soldiers. Under pressure from the military, deliberately insufficient investigative efforts have been made to identify the soldiers and commanding officers responsible for the shootings. Criminal and disciplinary cases were dropped in 2016 against former prime minister Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, and former army chief Gen. Anupong Paojinda…. Thai authorities have targeted for intimidation and prosecution witnesses and families of the victims who demand justice.

It is outrageous that the military has been allowed to walk away scot-free from deadly crimes committed in downtown Bangkok,” Adams said….





HRW on Thailand under the military boot

19 01 2018

Human Rights Watch has released its World Report 2018. The Thailand report‘s first heading is: “Sweeping, Unchecked, and Unaccountable Military Powers.” That country chapter is only about 7 pages and worth reading.

The media release on the Thailand chapter begins (with our bolding):

Thailand’s government took no significant steps to restore democratic rule and basic freedoms in 2017…. The military junta’s adoption of a national human rights agenda and repeated assurances that it would hold elections for a civilian government did nothing to reverse the country’s human rights crisis.

It cites HRW Asia director Brad Adams:

Thailand’s military junta has used its unchecked powers to drop the country into an ever-deeper abyss of human rights abuses. Instead of restoring basic rights as promised, the junta prosecuted critics and dissenters, banned peaceful protests, and censored the media.

On media censorship it states:

During the year the authorities temporarily forced off the air Voice TV, Spring News Radio, Peace TV, and TV24 for criticizing military rule. The stations were permitted to resume broadcasting after they agreed to practice self-censorship.

Writing of The Dictator’s power:

As head of the junta, Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha wields limitless authority, including the military’s power to arrest, detain, and interrogate civilians without safeguards against abuse. There are still at least 1,800 civilians facing prosecution in military courts, which do not meet international fair trial standards.

On lese majeste:

Since the 2014 coup, Thai authorities have arrested at least 105 people on lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) charges. The crackdown on lese majeste offenses has intensified since the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October 2016.

It is a sorry tale.





Junta repression deepens II

16 08 2017

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement on the charging of five academics and attendees at the International Conference on Thai Studies.

We can only wonder if the foreign academics who attended will mobilize to protest this new low by the junta.

The keynote speakers should be the first and loudest voices: Katherine Bowie, Duncan McCargo, Thonchai Winichakul and Michael Herzfeld. After all, they made very particular and careful decisions to attend amid some calls for a boycott because the junta has been repressive of academics in Thailand (not their yellow-shirted friends and allies, of course).

Here’s the HRW statement:

Thai authorities should immediately drop charges against a prominent academic and four conference participants for violating the military junta’s ban on public assembly at a conference at Chiang Mai University in July 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The International Conference on Thai Studies included discussions and other activities that the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta deemed critical of military rule.

Professor Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, who faces up to one year in prison if convicted, is scheduled to report to police in Chiang Mai province on August 23. Four conference attendees – Pakawadee Veerapatpong, Chaipong Samnieng, Nontawat Machai, and Thiramon Bua-ngam – have been charged for the same offense for holding posters saying “An academic forum is not a military barrack” to protest the military’s surveillance of participants during the July 15-18 conference. None are currently in custody.

“Government censorship and military surveillance have no place at an academic conference,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “By prosecuting a conference organizer and participants, the Thai junta is showing the world its utter contempt for academic freedom and other liberties.”

Since taking power after the May 2014 coup, Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha has asserted that the airing of differences in political opinions could undermine social stability. Thai authorities have frequently forced the cancellation of community meetings, academic panels, issue seminars, and public forums on political matters, and especially issues related to dissent towards NCPO policies or the state of human rights in Thailand.Frequently, these repressive interventions are based on the NCPO’s ban on public gatherings of more than five people, and orders outlawing public criticisms of any aspect of military rule. The junta views people who repeatedly express dissenting views and opinions, or show support for the deposed civilian government, as posing a threat to national security, and frequently arrests and prosecutes them under various laws.

Over the past three years, thousands of activists, politicians, journalists, and human rights defenders have been arrested and taken to military camps across Thailand for hostile interrogation aimed at stamping out dissident views and compelling a change in their political attitudes. Many of these cases took place in Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand, the hometown of former prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra.

Most of those released from these interrogations, which the NCPO calls “attitude adjustment” programs, are forced to sign a written agreement that state they will cease making political comments, stop their involvement in political activities, or not undertake any actions to oppose military rule. Failure to comply with these written agreements can result in being detained again, or charged with the crime of disobeying the NCPO’s orders, which carries a sentence of up to two years in prison.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party, protects the rights of individuals to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and assembly. The UN committee that oversees compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Thailand has also ratified, has advised governments that academic freedom, as an element of the right to education, includes: “the liberty of individuals to express freely opinions about the institution or system in which they work, to fulfill their functions without discrimination or fear of repression by the State or any other actor, to participate in professional or representative academic bodies, and to enjoy all the internationally recognized human rights applicable to other individuals in the same jurisdiction.”

“Academics worldwide should call for the trumped-up charges against Professor Chayan and the four conference attendees to be dropped immediately,” Adams said. “Thailand faces a dim future if speech is censored, academic criticism is punished, and political discussions are banned even inside a university.”





May 2010, part IV

20 05 2015

Human Rights Watch has a post on the impunity of 2010. Brad Adams, Asia director, Human Rights Watch:

The failure of successive Thai governments to prosecute anyone from the military for the 2010 political violence sends a stark message of impunity. Fully five years on, commanders who gave the orders to soldiers and those who pulled the triggers all remain untouchable.

Five years after the events,

Despite overwhelming evidence that soldiers used excessive and unnecessary lethal force against protesters and others, not a single soldier has been held accountable for deaths or injuries during the crackdown on street protests.





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?





HRW fails on the military dictatorship

21 09 2014

Human Rights Watch is wasting its collective breath on Thailand’s military dictatorship. Declaring that the “Thai government and military authorities [PPT: in fact the two are indistinguishable] should immediately end its crackdown on academic seminars and respect freedom of expression,” really is a waste of time and effort. The truth is that the military dictatorship is true to form; Thailand’s military governments are generally authoritarian book burners who repress and oppress in the name of monarchy and ruling class.

When it detains academics and “activists for several hours for organizing [a] … seminar,” this is nothing new for the uniformed troglodytes.

Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch seems a little confused when he says: “While telling the world that they are not dictators, the Thai military authorities are extending their grip into universities and banning discussions about democracy and human rights,” he seems as if he really wants to believe the criminals who seized power in an illegal coup. He seems to think that “the world” does not recognize that men in uniform with dyed hair and propaganda machines extolling a cult of personality in the name of the monarchy is not a fascist dictatorship.Human Rights Watch

When Adams declares: “Prime Minister Prayuth should immediately end this crackdown on academic freedom and free speech,” he may as well be trying to make gold from iron filings. Prayuth is The Dictator and recognizing him as anything else is politically dumb. He should know this for he quotes The Dictator who is clear:

“We are working on reconciliation.… This is not a time for them to talk…. They did not get permission to talk. And what did they want talk about? They talked about democracy at Thammasat University. They talked about political issues that we told them not to talk about.”

Thinking is banned. Talking is banned when it does not conform.

HRW quotes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to The Dictator. We are sure that he couldn’t care less whether Thailand is a party to such an agreement as it doesn’t accord with His ideas.

Again Adams sounds as if he believes junta claptrap when he says, “Thailand is clearly not on a path toward democracy when free speech is censored, criticism is prosecuted, and political activity is prohibited…. The path that such repressive action leads to is dictatorship.”

Has HRW lost the plot again?

This is not a regime on the path to dictatorship, it is a fully-fledged and operating dictatorship.





Spooner’s ups and downs

11 04 2013

Less than a week ago PPT posted that:

Andrew Spooner is back with a new post at Asia Sentinel. His blogs and posts have always been interesting and have often aroused some fiery debates and controversy.

In that very short period he posted three stories with Asia Sentinel. Remarkably, they pulled them all.

Andrew tells his story of censorship back at his old blog Asia Provocateur. It certainly seems that his post questioning Human Rights Watch’s Brad Adams was a catalyst, but maybe his earlier writing also caused Asia Sentinel’s drastic action. And here we are referring to posts that were completely unconnected with Asia Sentinel!