Putting the shoe on the other foot

11 02 2018

Back in November, PPT posted on potential trouble brewing for Thai dissidents in Cambodia. At the time, Hun Sen seemed to be asking for the Thai junta to deport members of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party who have fled to Thailand.

On 8 February, Thailand handed over a Cambodian labor activist. Sam Sokha was “sentenced” in absentia by a Hun Sen regime court on 25 January for the vague “crimes” of “insult of a public official” and “incitement to discriminate.” In other words, she threw a shoe at a billboard depicting Cambodia’s authoritarian premier.

Of course, after she was presumably forcibly repatriated from Thailand, she was arrested.

According to several reports, Thailand’s military dictatorship deported her despite the fact that “the UN refugee agency reportedly had formally recognised her as a refugee.”

This is not the first time Thailand has done this. In 2016, the dictatorship worked with the Chinese to send dissidents back to China, including two who had UN status and were awaiting third-country resettlement.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said:

Thailand was fully aware of Sam Sokha’s status as a refugee, yet still returned her to Cambodia, where she is likely to face a prison term for expressing her political views…. It’s sad but not surprising that a military junta would do a favour for a neighbouring dictator, but they should not cement their friendship at the expense of a refugee.

We may guess that the junta expects Cambodia to return the favor and will be hoping to capture some Thai dissidents.

Further updated: Screwing refugees

12 04 2011

PPT has posted many times on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s reprehensible approach to border-crossers and refugees, that has included several instances of forces repatriation. There has been far too little international attention to this issue and only weak attempts to condemn quite inhumane actions.

Now, however, this government has decided that it can solve its refugee “problem” in one easy, inhumane and arguably illegal action.

According to a report in the Bangkok Post, “Thailand plans to close all refugee camps along its western border and send more than 100,000 Burmese back home now that a constitutional government has been installed in Burma.” Only a government that thinks a constitution is just a bit of paper that can be torn up at will will believe that Burma has a “constitutional government” in any meaningful sense.

The Post states that “National Security Council Chief Thawil Pliensri said the closure of the refugee camps was discussed at the agency’s meeting yesterday chaired by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.” As we have said previously, this reprehensible approach to a weak and abused population is Abhisit’s. Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is well and truly on board with this inhumane activity, having discussed and apparently agreed it with Burmese government leaders.

Thailand currently has about 140,000 Burmese refugees in several camps on the Western border with Burma. They lodge people who have generally fled fighting and political persecution in Burma under the military regime there. Many have resided in the camps for several years and some for two decades.

Kitty McKinsey, a “spokeswoman for the UN Relief Agency in Bangkok, said it was too soon to send the refugees home.” She added: “We have been working very well with the Thai government and we do understand that they don’t want the refugees to stay here forever…. But the solution is not forcing people to go back to a country that is still dangerous.”

Foreign Affairs spokesman Thani Thongpakdi indicated that the Thai government would seek more involvement in the camps, now said to be managed by foreign non-government organisations, so that they could “prepare” camp residents for their return. PPT anticipates that such a return would again be forced and would involve the military.

This Abhisit government appears to have a very close and comfortable relationship with the fake constitutional regime in Burma. It seems they understand each other as sibling regimes. PPT would hope that the international outcry would be loud and long. The international community needs to acknowledge and label Teflon Mark and his regime as human rights abusers.

Update 1: Worth reading this post at Thai Intelligent News for more on this policy and this interpretation at Asia Correspondent.

Update 2: More reporting on this decision here and here.

More on Rohinga

21 02 2011

Almost 2 weeks ago PPT posted on the plight of Rohinga who, in a story that appeared to replay earlier events, claimed to have been towed back to sea and cast adrift by Thai authorities. Bangkok Pundit now has an excellent update on this situation.

We are reminded of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s claims in 2009, then published in The Guardian:

Thailand’s prime minister acknowledged yesterday that officials had towed migrants from Burma back out to sea, but insisted human rights were not violated. Many Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in their native land, have tried to land in Thailand in recent months, only to be turned away. Rescued migrants said the Thai navy towed them out to the high seas in boats with no engines. Hundreds died as a result. The prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, said the boats “were towed out so they can land at a different destination”. He did not deny that sending them away was government policy.


Further updated: Even more deportations

24 01 2011

The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) has “sent a letter to the Secretariat of Prime Minister, with a demand to meet with the Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to discuss the APRRN’s clear concern for the continuing denial of human rights to asylum seekers and refugees, as set out in APRRN’s Statement of Concern dated 20 December 2010 regarding the arrest and indefinite detention of Pakistani asylum seekers and refugees in Bangkok.”

The Network states that 36 of some 85 detainees have already been deported. It states that “this amounts to a violation of the customary international law principle of non-refoulement , requiring that no state shall expel or return an asylum seekers or refugee to a country where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of, in this case, his religion. The conditions of detention also arguably amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, being additional violations of Thailand’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

This approach of deportation and forced repatriation is now standard practice for this government.

Update 1: More on deportations here, identifying Rohinga.

Update 2: CNN has more on the new arrivals of Rohinga.

What the mainstream media won’t report III

1 01 2011

PPT posted on the Bangkok Post’s selection of 5 under-reported stories in the mainstream media. We then listed 4 different but under-reported stories, and now list another 4 stories the mainstream media shied away from, deliberately downplayed or neglected for political reasons:

Lese majeste – we know that the law on lese majeste is so draconian, its implementation somewhat fickle, and its repressive weight overpowering, making reporting lese majeste stories difficult for all media. However, one of the ways that the mainstream media deals with lese majeste is to essentially ignore cases where people are charged and again when they are sentenced. Lese majeste stories tend to be brief and “neutral,” reporting very little about controversy or anything about the legal proceedings. When the reports are not bland, they can essentially amount to attacks on the accused. Readers can look through our lists of the accused and the convicted and will find that it has really only been Prachatai taking an consistent interest in lese majeste stories and issues.

Huge support to the red shirts in Bangkok – for PPT, this was one of the really big stories that was deliberately downplayed by the mainstream media. PPT was made most aware of this when the massive red shirt caravan circumnavigated Bangkok. The day after that caravan back in March, PPT stated: “Given the huge government effort to discredit the red shirt caravan of 20 March 2010, it is difficult to know where to begin…. PPT must express incredulity regarding the mainstream media. To watch news readers saying again and again that 25,000 people participated is like watching Alice in Wonderland and 1984 in 3-D at the same time.” In another post, we said: “The most noticeable thing … was the exuberant solidarity. All … were in a festive mood, with emotions running high, not in any negative way, but in a joyous way. This was … an opportunity to be heard … following the rejection of their votes….  PPT has never seen anything like this event anywhere. It was huge.” And, we added: “Those who hate and fear the red shirts will not agree…. Where there was joy and exuberance, they’ll see the hand of Thaksin. Already they are claiming that these people were paid. As PPT has been saying…, this now makes for dangerous times.” In hindsight, PPT thinks that this huge demonstration of Bangkok-based support for the red shirts probably determined that the establishment had to crush them. Such shows of solidarity could not be allowed.

Military and government corruption – PPT has posted numerous times on corruption in the military and in the government. Yes, the mainstream media harps on corruption, but tends to blame politicians. And, yes, politicians are involved. But where are the investigative reports of absolutely obvious corruption in, say, the military? Our posts have had a fondness for the army’s non-flying, probably totally useless zeppelin. Why is that these things get reported but there is no follow-up on the broader issues of corruption? This is yet another example of avoiding any attack on the institutions that run the country.

Forced repatriation – the under-reporting of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s repeated forcible repatriation of border crossers is scandalous. This under-reporting is related to the fact that the military is always involved, and as noted above, criticism of it has to be muted because of its power and centrality. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of Rohinga, Hmong and Burmese have all been thrown out, forcibly in recent years, and inhumanely. Where’s the outrage in the mainstream media?

That will do us. If readers have things they want us to add, email us with the details: thaipoliticalprisoners@gmail.com

Best wishes to our readers for the New Year.

More on forcible repatriation

29 12 2010

Reuters photo of an earlier 2010 entry of Burmese to Thailand, fleeing fighting there.

A few days ago, PPT posted on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s continued forcible repatriation of border crossers, including those fleeing fighting in Burma. In that post we linked to a report in The Irrawaddy. The government’s abysmal reputation in this area gets worse and worse.

This is reinforced in a report sourced to AFP that states that the UNHCR, the UN refugees agency, has “raised concerns over Thailand’s move to forcibly return a group of displaced Myanmar nationals on Christmas day, saying that conditions were not met for safe returns.” In a statement, it said it was “concerned over the circumstances of the return of some 166 Myanmar nationals seeking temporary protection from Thailand on 25 December…”. The group expelled included 50 women and over 70 children.

The UNHCR appealed “to the Royal Thai Government that returns should take place on a strictly voluntary basis, and only when conditions are in place to return in safety and dignity…. These conditions were not met on December 25…. In the past few weeks, UNHCR had already expressed its concern to the Royal Thai Government over the hasty manner in which some returns took place, where some persons returned home only to have to flee again when fighting resumed shortly afterwards…”.

More forced repatriations

27 12 2010

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government continues to forcibly repatriate border crossers, including those fleeing fighting in Burma. The Irrawaddy reports that “[m]ore than 200 Karen refugees were forcibly sent back into Burma from Thailand on Saturday despite unstable conditions and fighting near their villages…”. It adds that the “Thai army forced refugees sheltering at a Buddhist temple and a Thai school in Pop Phra-District in Thailand’s Tak Province back across the border, telling them the situation had become stable.” Many of those forced back were afraid to return to their villages and stayed close to the border.

The report adds that some “600 Karen refugees still remain in hiding at relatives’ homes on the Thai border as they are afraid they will be forced back.” The most recent fighting on the Burma side was on 22 and 23 December when the Karen National Liberation Army launched attacks on junta troops.

The current government’s policies on the Burma border are clear: force people back.

Migrants and human rights: An odious reputation

3 02 2010

PPT recently and briefly mentioned the case of 9 illegal migrants who appear to have been murdered by police near Mae Sot in the country’s north. For more details on this seemingly grisly case, see The Irrawaddy (2 February 2010 ).

The report includes these details that suggest that the life of a migrant is now worth $30.: “All nine victims were shot with a 22-caliber gun. Their bodies were found in two locations in northern Tak Province. The migrants had reportedly been arrested in the Phop Phra area and had tried to bribe the police for permission to stay in Thailand, The Bangkok Post reported, quoting one local source. The gunmen demanded 1,000 baht (US $33) from each of the group, but killed nine of the migrants when they had difficulty raising the money, one local source told The Irrawaddy.

The same newspaper includes details on the likely forced repatriation of Karen to Burma and the implications for these people.

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government, backed as it is by the military, has developed an odious reputation for its dealings with migrants and refugees.

Forced deportation

28 12 2009
The Abhisit Vejjajiva government, claiming to follow international principles and the rule of law, sent 5,000 troops on a pre-dawn mission to forcibly deport some 4,000 Hmong from a camp at Huay Nam Khao in Phetchabun province (Bangkok Post, 28 December 2009: Thailand starts deporting Hmong to Laos and New York Times, 28 December 2009, “Thailand Begins Repatriation of Hmong to Laos”).

According to reports, “Security forces were seen heading towards the camp by truck armed with batons and shields…”. Independent observers and the media were kept away. Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch stated that “[s]pecial forces members were among the troops entering the camp and 50 mobile prison trucks also arrived…” He said that the military was to “first target group leaders and potential trouble makers. Those people would be snatched and sent out first“.

The deportations came despite international pleading for the Thai government to halt its plans to send all of these people back to Laos even when Thai officials agreed that some had legitimate political concerns about such a repatriation.

Just a few hours ago PPT asked why anyone should believe Prime Minister Abhisit’s assurances regarding a forced repatriation. We have raised this question several times in other instances where Abhisit’s actions do not match his words.

One other aspect of this action that deserves some attention is the failure of the Thai media to deal with this human rights issue in any meaningful way. The forcible deportation barely rated a mention in television news reports early Monday. When it was mentioned it was reported in an entirely uncritical manner and supportive of the government.

It has to be said that the management of news under the Abhisit government now mirrors that under Thaksin Shinawatra. Indeed, it may be even more complete because the mainstream media is entirely pro-government. Free-to-air television news now appears as an advertorial for the government. As PPT has warned previously, this is a dangerous trend supportive of authoritarianism in government.

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