The internal security state denies human rights

9 12 2010

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has warned that “anti-human rights forces” have taken “control of key national institutions in Thailand and are digging in to fight for political control of the country…”.

In its annual human rights day report on Thailand, the AHRC says that Thailand’s “internal security state” remains highly authoritarian but now has a “more refined public relations and a sharper concern for new types of political and technological threats to its authority” than previous repressive states. The internal security state uses expanded “emergency regulations to legitimate all state actions while also producing impunity; failure to meet obligations under international human rights law; the obfuscation of truth and curtailment of justice; and failure of the country’s human rights institutions to perform according to their mandate”. No middle ground exists for citizens to express political views “without fear of criminalization or violence”.

The 21-page report on Thailand reviews the events of April-May 2010, including the government’s violent crackdown on protesters, accounts of individual cases (e.g. activist Sombat Boonngamanong, human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, war on drugs victims and cases of deaths in custody in the south), and details that show the repressive state apparatus has “over many decades been associated with gross and widespread human rights violations in Thailand”.

It is stated that: “Independent voices and actors have been targeted in increasingly frequent, increasingly cynical and increasingly ridiculous criminal actions that are having the effect of greatly reducing the opportunities for sensible and informed debate on the serious problems that the country is facing, as well as pushing the judicial system further and further into a system for the pursuit of blatant political ends through superficially legal means…”.

The report also “draws attention to how the emergency regulations in Thailand clearly violate international law and are contrary to its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it points out, is consistent with the government of Thailand’s non-compliance with treaties and agreements to which it has committed itself.” Of concern too is the report’s claim that

Despite the persistent and flagrant violation of international law through application of these states of emergency, and notwithstanding the calls of human rights organizations, the UN Human Rights Council has remained mute on the rapidly deteriorating situation of human rights in Thailand,” the report states, noting that this is in part because Thailand’s ambassador to the council, an apologist for gross human rights abuses in his country, is currently the council chairman.

The report notes the awful performance of the National Human Rights Commission, which lacks independence and has shown a reluctance to engage in effective action to defend even the most basic of human rights.

Adding to this worsening situation, the report notes that the authorities responsible for human rights abuses escape culpability and that it is the victims who have “been made to pay the price for their demands for truth and justice…”. The culture of impunity rules.

And, as might be expected, the report points to the continuing and deepening use of lese majeste and computer crimes laws as a means to repress opposition and dissent.

Read the whole report. While regular readers of PPT won’t find a great deal that is new, the report remains striking as it clearly documents the rise of forces that are antithetical to human rights and democracy.

Updated: The emergency decree and continuing the repression

8 12 2010

The Bangkok Post and many other outlets report that there is consideration of lifting the emergency decree. The current three-month implementation of the decree expires on 5 January.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said that the decree could “well be revoked before the New Year now that the overall situation has improved…”. He quickly added that “it was still necessary for the government to monitor the activities of various groups to ensure there was no incitement to violence.”

Is this a big deal. Well, yes, in the sense that many have called for the lifting of this aspect of a military-backed regime’s headlock on political activism. But not really such a big deal if one considers that the emergency has been in place since April. That’s now 8 months of this repression under a government that repeatedly claims to be democratic and interested in human rights. Of course, it is an authoritarian regime that shows scant regard for any rights. That will continue. And, since the regime has used emergency rule to arrest repress and smash the various elements of red shirt opposition – there remain more than 200 in jail following the arrests that followed the government’s crackdown on red shirts – there is unlikely to be a retraction of the military’s steel claws that strangle opposition.

Abhisit acknowledges this when he says: “The overall situation has improved. I have instructed the secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) to lay down measures to cope with the situation after the decree is lifted…”. Remarkably, Abhisit admits repression: “The government does not want to infringe on the rights of the people and does not want to use a special law indefinitely…”. Repression can continue by other means that are strengthened by the rise of the military and the regime’s purging of military, police and bureaucracy.

It is noteworthy that Abhisit made his statement only after Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon, director of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation, said the emergency decree could be lifted.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports thatthe Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations has “agreed to recommend that the cabinet end the enforcement of the emergency decree in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Pathum Thani…”. It was added: “After the decree is lifted, a peace-keeping plan prepared by the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) would be implemented to maintain law and order…. If unrest reoccurs, the Internal Security Act would be imposed to enable the deployment of soldiers…”. Welcome to the internal security state.


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