HRW on the dissolution

23 02 2020

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement on the Constitutional Court’s legal contortions: Thailand: Court Dissolves Opposition Party. Disbanding Future Forward Party, Banning Leaders a Blow to Democracy.

Preparing the Court’s decision

We are somewhat dismayed that HRW sees the dissolution as “seriously damaging the country’s return to genuine democratic rule…”. Given the organization’s experience, it should be well aware that the  military junta did not plan anything like a genuine democracy and that the role of the Constitutional Court has been to ensure that, working with partner partisans like the Election Commission.

HRW gets it right in stating:

Since its founding in 2018, the Future Forward Party has faced an onslaught of arbitrary legal actions and military intimidation that has raised serious doubts about the government’s commitment to the democratic [sic.] process. The dissolution verdict came just three days ahead of a no-confidence debate scheduled for February 24 to 26 against the government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha….

The court proceedings raise serious fair trial concerns, highlighted by the court’s refusal to allow the Future Forward Party to present its case, Human Rights Watch said. The party had made a request to present evidence to counter the accusations against it, but the court ruled that it already had sufficient evidence to reach a verdict.

The ruling violates the rights of Future Forward Party members to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and democratic participation guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified.

 





Updated: Reprehensible regime

17 01 2020

In what seems like a somewhat naive statement, Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2020 states:

The Thai government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha elected in March failed to improve respect for human rights or restore genuine democratic rule after five years of military dictatorship….

To say that the military dictator’s government was “elected” in 2019 gives the military-backed, royalist regime too much legitimacy. It should never be forgotten that the military junta rigged the electoral rules and only cobbled together its coalition by having its Election Commission change the rules as the vote count was completed.

And, no one ever expected that the “new” government – which was really not very different from the junta’s government. The parties that joined the government were all composed of royalist supporters of the 2014 coup.

Coup plotters and election cheats

With those caveats, it is still worth reading the HRW report summary on Thailand. The report itself is a list of abuses by the regime that is little different from the 2019 report.

Convicted heroin smuggler

The regime seems little troubled by law or to have any moral compass. While not mentioned in the report, this is a government that has senior men who have been coup plotters, breaking the law and destroyed a constitution. It has other ministers who are flip-flopping opportunists. It also has a convicted heroin smuggler as a deputy minister.

Land grabber

And now the government’s Palang Pracharath Party has made land grabber and (if the law was actually used) criminal Parina Kraikup an appointed member of a House Committee on anti-corruption.

Nothing is bizarre enough for this essentially lawless regime. There might be a point to having a corrupt MP on the committee – she’d knows about corruption up close – being the daughter of a multiple hit-and-run former MP and local godfather figure.

It is a regime of reprehensible criminals.

Update: It is interesting to read the Bangkok Post’s editorial excoriating the EC. This is in the context of the efforts by the regime and ruling class to be rid of the Future Forward Party on trumped up charges and in a process that was probably corrupt and maybe illegal. But that’s just one of the EC’s biased actions meant to favor its bosses and the Palang Pracharath Party and the ruling regime. As the Post observes:

Given that its decisions have far-ranging impacts across the political landscape, the agency’s [the EC] seemingly dubious handling of many key political cases has steered the country’s democracy towards an increasingly dark and gloomy future.





Updated: Murder, impunity

4 09 2019

PPT has only mentioned the enforced disappearance of Karen rights activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen twice.

Clipped from Khaosod

One post came soon after his “disappearance” after being detained in Kaeng Krachan National Park by park officials on bogus charges. The post noted that Billy’s “disappearance” came after he filed a lawsuit that accused Kaeng Krachan Park authorities of damaging the property and homes of more than 20 Karen families living inside the park, suggesting that state officials were (again) solving “problems” by enforced disappearance. (We have seen this again recently with the murder and disappearance of several anti-monarchy activists.)

Several years ago the Asian Legal Resource Center made the UN’s Human Rights Council aware of the importance of continued action to end enforced disappearance in Thailand. It pointed out that “[d]ocumented cases indicate that enforced disappearances of citizens, including human rights defenders, dissidents, and ordinary people, have been carried out by Thai state security forces for over forty years.”

Two years after our first post, we noted a Human Rights Watch communication that observed that:

Thailand signed the Convention against Enforced Disappearance in January 2012 but has not ratified the treaty. The penal code still does not recognize enforced disappearance as a criminal offense. Thai authorities have yet to satisfactorily resolve any of the 64 enforced disappearance cases reported by Human Rights Watch, including the disappearances of prominent Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit in March 2004 and ethnic Karen activist Por Cha Lee Rakchongcharoen, known as “Billy,” in April 2014.

As usual, the official “investigation” was hopeless. However, on Tuesday, the Department of Special Investigation announced that it had found and identified “bone fragments of a Karen community rights activist [Billy] missing since 2014…”. The bone fragment DNA, said to “match those of his mother,” were “found in May inside a 200-liter oil tank submerged in water near a suspension bridge inside Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province…. The tank that was found was burnt. The bones were also burnt…”. (This raises the specter of the Red Drum murders.)

This discovery came after Billy’s relatives “filed a request with the Phetchaburi Provincial Court to have Porlajee declared legally dead on 27 August…”.

Will anyone be brought to justice? Probably not. Impunity remains the norm for murderous officials, police and military.

Update: Sounding odd indeed, in the Bangkok Post, Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, the former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, “who was among the last people to see the late Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen before he disappeared five years ago” has decided to publicly question the “DNA test that led authorities to conclude the Karen rights activist was murdered.” Speculation on why he might do this is warranted, but the ex-chief was quick to say that “he had nothing to do with Porlajee’s disappearance and death.”





“New” regime tramples rights

3 08 2019

A few days ago this statement was posted by Human Rights Watch. We reproduce it in full:

Thailand: New Government Disregards Rights
Policy Statement Fails to Address Major Concerns

(New York) – The new Thai government’s policy statement fails to provide a pathway for restoring respect for human rights after five years of military rule, Human Rights Watch said today. Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha will present the policy statement for his second term in office on July 25-26, 2019.“Prime Minister Prayuth’s second term is starting with the same blanket disregard for human rights that characterized his first term,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “His policy statement contains no language whatsoever addressing the serious problems under repressive military rule since the 2014 coup. Whatever hopes that the new government would bring about human rights reforms and advance democratic, civilian rule suffered a serious setback with the failure to include any commitments in the policy statement.”

Prayuth’s 40-page policy statement, which was submitted to the parliament speaker on July 19, does not discuss human rights issues in the country. It does not even discuss Prayuth’s own “national human rights agenda,” which he released in February 2018 with much fanfare.

Key civil and political rights problems that need to be addressed by the new government include:

Impunity for Human Rights Violations

As chairman of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta, Prayuth wielded power from 2014-2019 unhindered by administrative, legislative, or judicial oversight or accountability, including for human rights violations. While the NCPO disbanded after the new government took office, the constitution that took effect in 2017 protects junta members and anyone acting on the junta’s orders from being held accountable for human rights violations committed during military rule. And no redress is available for victims of those rights violations.

Restrictions on Freedom of Expression

The NCPO prosecuted hundreds of activists, journalists, politicians, and dissidents for peacefully expressing their views, on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and insulting the monarchy. During Prayuth’s first term, the junta frequently used these overbroad laws to arbitrarily punish and silence critics. Under the new government, the military retains the power to summon anyone deemed to have criticized the government or the monarchy, question them without the presence of a lawyer, and compel them to promise to end their criticism to gain release.

Protection of Human Rights Defenders

A climate of fear persists among rights activists and critics of the government. Even those who fled Thailand to escape political persecution are not safe. At least three Thai political activists have been forcibly disappeared in Laos. Two others have been killed. Another three Thai political activists returned by Vietnam to Thailand have also been missing.

Successive governments have disregarded Thailand’s obligation to ensure that all human rights defenders and organizations can carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment. Against the backdrop of a recent string of brutal attacks targeting prominent pro-democracy activists and dissidents, the government has yet to develop a credible policy to better protect them. Thai authorities have not seriously investigated these attacks, and instead repeatedly told activists and dissidents to give up political activity in exchange for state protection.

During his first term, Prayuth frequently stated that Thailand would act to end so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), which are used by government agencies and private companies to intimidate and silence those reporting human rights violations. However, these cases continue, frequently as criminal defamation cases. Prayuth’s policy statement makes no mention of Thailand’s much advertised commitment to promote business practices compatible with human rights standards.

The policy statement also does not address the urgent need to revamp the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. The United Nations Human Rights Council has downgraded the commission because of its substandard selection process for commissioners and its lack of political independence. Revisions to the law adopted during Prayuth’s first term further weakened the commission and transformed it into a de facto government mouthpiece.

Enforced Disappearance, Torture, Violence, and Abuses in Southern Border Provinces

Since January 2004, more than 90 percent of the 6,800 people killed in the ongoing armed conflict in Thailand’s southern border provinces have been civilians from both ethnic Malay Muslim and ethnic Thai Buddhist communities. Although the insurgents have committed egregious abuses, rights violations by Thai security forces have greatly exacerbated the situation.

Thai authorities regularly failed to conduct serious and credible inquiries into torture allegations and enforced disappearances. Military detention, which lacks effective safeguards against abuse, occurs regularly during government counterinsurgency operations in the southern border provinces. Successive Thai governments have failed to prosecute security personnel responsible for torture, unlawful killings, and other serious human rights violations against ethnic Malay Muslims. In many cases, Thai authorities provided financial compensation to the victims or their families in exchange for their agreement not to speak out or file criminal cases against officials. Despite these concerns, Prayuth’s policy statement does not address human rights problems in Thailand’s southern border provinces.

International Obligations

Prayuth’s policy statement only vaguely mentions the importance of Thailand meeting its international obligations. The junta did little to promote Thailand’s adherence to the core international human rights treaties. Although Thailand signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2012, it has yet to ratify the treaty and Thailand’s penal code does not recognize enforced disappearance. Thailand also does not have a law that criminalizes torture, as required by the Convention against Torture, which it ratified in 2007. The junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly suddenly suspended its consideration of the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance bill in February 2017, and the government has not set a new time frame for reconsidering the bill. Prayuth’s policy statement does not include this law among legislation to be urgently introduced by the government.

“Thailand’s foreign friends should not let the recent elections become an excuse for ignoring the deteriorating human rights situation in the country,” Adams said. “There should be no rush to return to business as usual without securing serious commitments and corresponding action from the new government to respect human rights.”





Assassins serving the state

22 06 2019

Sunai Phasuk a Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch has a Dispatch that is revealing of the operations of Thailand’s military.

It is about the south, but speaks volumes about the way the military operates, illegally, and with impunity. It begins:

The recent arrest in Yala province of a militia member linked to numerous murders and other crimes raised hopes that the Thai government was finally getting serious about countless abuses carried out by its security forces in Thailand’s restive southern border provinces….

“Getting serious” is not about arresting a southern insurgent, but arresting Abdulhakeem “Hakeem” Darase who

… is allegedly responsible for a long list of murders of ethnic Malay Muslim men and women accused of involvement with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) separatist movement.

He’s an operative and assassin with links to the military. He’s in the custody of the military, meaning police can’t charge him.

Sunai concludes:

The government should take an important step to break this cycle of violence by ordering the military to transfer Hakeem to police custody for a transparent and impartial criminal investigation and to be prosecuted as the evidence warrants it. There can be no excuses.





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….