Virus doublespeak

20 12 2020

We at PPT are not medically trained or epidemiologists but as laypersons interested in human rights, we were stunned by a report at Thai Enquirer.

The outbreak in Samut Sakhon is among workers employed in the fisheries industry who live in crowded and unsanitary dormitories. It is reported:

The government said that they would isolate the dormitories where the migrant workers were …[living] but would provide healthcare and other necessities. The government said Thais living in the dormitories would be evacuated and moved to local hospitals.

Photos show razor wire being put up around the dormitories and the seafood market.

Government Spokesman Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin said this was not about “blaming” migrants – it is – and that human rights were being maintained – they aren’t.

Taweesin said Singapore had shown:

how to isolate and quarantine a foreign work force. Singapore saw a mass break out in foreign workers dormitory with workers living in close proximity to one another. The city-state managed to isolate and quarantine the work force but faced some criticisms from rights groups.

And how did things go for migrant workers in Singapore? A Reuters report explains that:

Nearly half of Singapore’s migrant workers residing in dormitories have had COVID-19, according to the government, indicating the virus spread much more widely among those living in these accommodations than the official case tally shows.

The rate in the dormitories for migrant workers was 47%. The rate for those outside the dormitories was just 0.25%.

If that’s the model, human rights count for nothing. Singapore should be condemned, and so should Thailand if it takes this discriminatory route.

Military traffic

23 07 2017

There are several stories going around that congratulate the military regime for finally managing to get some of the bigger human traffickers into court and having them convicted with long sentences.

The regime has attempted to get its “ranking” up in the annual U.S. report on human trafficking.

The Asia Times has some of the detail on the case that finally saw some of the bigger fish in what it calls a “brutal trade” brought to court. In all, of the 103 people charged, 62 people were convicted of human trafficking and other crimes.

The details of this gang of traffickers, led by officials, are grim. Correctly, the report notes that the “[c]amps set up by traffickers in the jungle on the Thai-Malaysian border to hold Rohingya and other ‘boat people’ existed for many years prior to government crackdown in mid-2015 that curtailed the brutal trade…”.

One estimate is “that more than 500 people died in the camps where the people in this particular trafficking chain were held, and that the camps were probably there for at least five years or more.”

The most senior official caught in this ring is “Lieutenant General Manas Kongpaen … who was sentenced to 27 years jail…”. As the report notes, it was Manas, then a Colonel, who “was involved in the notorious ‘pushbacks’ affair in December 2008 and January 2009, when vessels carrying hundreds of Rohingya were towed back into the Andaman Sea and set adrift.”

Remarkably, “Manas admitted using funds from the International Organization of Migration (IOM) to help pay for the ‘pushbacks’, which sparked a global furore, as hundreds were believed to have died at sea.”

At the time, during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, the government vehemently denied a push-back policy and ignored the rise of human trafficking gangs. Manas was promoted two ranks after this time. Manas was widely reported and defended his actions. The BBC noted that Manas was “the regional commander of the Internal Security Operations Command.” That report added that he was also “one of three officers blamed by a Thai court for a massacre of Muslims five years ago.”

The IOM is now “investigating whether Lt-Gen Manas … could have diverted any money from IOM humanitarian projects and used it to fund a criminal operation to tow boats out to sea.” It is also possible he used funds from IOM and, more likely, from the state for funding his own camps.

The report also reminds readers that journalists and Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison who documented human trafficking were challenged by the Royal Thai Navy who brought a defamation case against them.

The pressure to cover-up was huge, with one senior policeman decamping to Australia and never returning.

At the time, the Army and The Dictator declared “none of its officers are directly linked to the illegal activities.” The police admitted they were afraid to go after Manas.

As Morison explained, “Everyone knew about it. And few people thought it was wrong. We were shown big houses in Ranong and Kuraburi, where locals claimed they were constructed from the proceeds of trafficking.”

One big shot in jail does not change the system of exploitation and corruption. Recall the Saudi gems heist saw senior police jailed yet the police have remained a corrupt organization.

When the military is on top IX

6 07 2017

The Bangkok Post had an interesting story on the military dictatorship’s failed migrant labor “policy.” Interesting, not so much for The Dictator’s lame excuse that the new, ill-considered and damaging law was to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Thailand is serious about human trafficking, but for a couple of embedded links.

Before that, however, we should recall that the junta has a poor history on migrant workers. Soon after its illegal military coup in 2014, it issued Order No. 59/2557 and Order No. 60/2557, dated 11 June 2014, regarding the administration of migrant workers.

At the time, the official attacks on migrants that resulted saw hundreds of thousands heading for the borders or being arrested and thrown across borders. PPT then stated:

Military dictatorships are notorious for the impunity they enjoy and the excesses this permits. After all, no laws except their laws, no constitution, no “independent” agencies or media, and no opposition. Thailand’s current junta is no different from the variously nasty, savage and corrupt juntas of the past.

It seems the junta learned nothing from that early policy shambles. A junta spokesperson was cited at the time:

This spokesperson mumbled something about migrants fleeing and being trucked and dumped at the border “that because of the rumours,” and saying that “some businesses were concerned and sent the foreign workers back home.” This is the usual horse manure that flows from those with no law to control and guide them, and has been Army-speak for decades. She makes it even worse when she says “the harvest season had also begun, prompting some to return home to help their families.” Clearly the dictatorship’s spokesperson believes she speaks to a nation of morons.

The junta still thinks that and has essentially done the same thing three years later.

But back to the links in the Post story. The first of the links is to a story on 4 July on the business reaction to the “new” migrant worker policy. While some businesses worried, the report stated that ” leading Thai companies say they have seen no effects from the new foreign labour law.”

The second link is to a story “[b]usiness leaders on Tuesday hailed the government’s decision to invoke the powerful Section 44 of the interim charter to delay enforcement of the new controversial labour regulation law…”.

That’s the political point. Under a military dictatorship, capitalists suck up to the regime and praise almost everything it does, even when a flawed policy is implemented one day and withdrawn the next. They have to be careful if they criticize the dictatorship for fear that their huge profits may be targeted by the military thugs. Praise is preferred.

Missing the boat

21 05 2015

The Bangkok Post begins a story on boats and the human disaster of large-scale trafficking and slaving with this:

Thailand is prepared to help the thousands of boat people in the region only by extending humanitarian assistance, despite Malaysia and Indonesia agreeing to provide temporary shelter, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says.

“Thailand is midway, so we have more problems [than other countries]. In terms of policy, we agree to help but all remains to be discussed,” he said.

The country will provide humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants, but not allow them to stay on Thai soil, he said Wednesday.

Like us, most readers probably don’t understand The Dictator’s contradictory dictum. Thailand isn’t “midway,”but is a major node in trafficking, with significant involvement of corrupt official and military, all of whom have enriched themselves by the suffering of those being trafficked. This case is just one of many; think of Burmese migrants and their huge movement into Thailand and how this has enriched so many. Think of the camps controlled by the military from the 1970s to the 1990s. And there’s more. Using people in these ways has been normalized for the rich and powerful.

What we do understand is this photo:

Thailand missing

Yes, that is the Thai flag on the right. The puppet Minister of Foreign Affairs, General Tanasak Patimapragorn is missing. Why? The report states “he had to first refer back to whether the move would be allowed by Thai ‘domestic laws’.” Naturally, he had to refer any decision to The Dictator. Equally naturally, he has to be careful about the powerful interests involved in human trafficking.

A PR disaster for sure, but more significantly, a humanitarian disaster.

Prayuth and the foreigners

5 07 2014

Readers must be bored with our posting on the military junta’s double standards, but here we go again.

Standard 1: The massive exodus of Cambodian workers from Thailand after the military dictatorship seized power was initially said by the junta to be  just a misunderstanding or that the Cambodians were going home to plant rice. Very quickly, though, it became clear that not only was the crackdown on migrant workers a junta order, but that it was also in line with The Dictator’s view of foreigners as a major security threat for Thailand. Now there is more evidence that General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s personal views of the foreign threat drive junta policy.

The Irrawaddy reports that since the coup, the regime has “stepped up restrictions on the movement of more than 120,000 Burmese refugees living in camps along the Thai-Burma border.” Leaders at the Mae La refugee camp, said restrictions “banned [them] from leaving the camp to seek jobs.” In addition, “[r]efugees are banned from leaving their homes from 6 pm to 6 am…”.

This is a major crackdown, for while some of the restrictions have been on the books for years, they have not been enforced. Those in the camps also say that the military is seeking out those without UN documents with the aim of removing them. The pattern in these moves is Prayuth’s opinions.

What The Dictator wants, The Dictator gets.Fascist hug

Standard 2: But not all foreigners are equal.Prayuth does appear enamored of the ferocious and authoritarian Myanmar military.

We guess that fascists flock together as they have long done.

When Prayuth greeted Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief General Min Aung Hlaing with a bear hug, he was delighted when the leader of a military that was condemned by almost every country in the world “praised Thailand’s ruling junta, saying it was right to seize power…”.

We imagine that an invitation is being sent to the North Korean military to see if one of them can make a quick visit to Bangkok to praise the dictatorship.Prem and fascist friend

The other former dictator the Myanmar general loves is the interfering old man General and palace posterior polisher Prem Tinsulanonda. Prem reportedly “had close ties with Min Aung Hlaing’s father when Prem was the Thai Army commander in the late 1970s.” The Nation reports that when Min Aung Hlaing met Prem in 2012 he asked the old soldier “to adopt him…”. Prem loves him so much that he “gave him gifts that included a portrait of HM the King with Privy Council members.” It must be a bit like a Munsters family portrait.

The Myanmar general babbled about the sufficiency economy and how the 1988 uprising in Myanmar was a threat. We guess he means to the military dictatorship that ruled Myanmar for more than 40 years.

The current Thai military brass must draw tremendous inspiration from that fascist regime.

When military dictators stroke each other like this and throw monarchy into the mix, it is evident how much fascist dolts need each other.

Hitler and mussoliniIt seems like there’s been a large flock of fascists canoodling in Bangkok conjuring images of the 1930s in Europe when fascists were admired and visits between them were seen as important for challenging ideas about democracy that they considered daft and dangerous.rama-7_hitler

Some foreigners are good – when they are supportive. Others are a threat when they are poor and dispossessed.

If they are advocating ideas like electoral democracy then they are “dangerous” and despised.

Updated: MSF pulls out

7 10 2011

Long-time readers of PPT will know that we have sometimes commented on border issues and the often inhumane treatment of refugees and migrants by Thai authorities. In this post, we have some comments on the Médecins Sans Frontières and the end of its more than three decades of work in Thailand. There is a longer story on the impact of the pullout here.

As The Irrawaddy notes, MSF is “one of the world’s major humanitarian organizations” and it has announced “that it had ended its operations in the country because of interference by the Thai government.”

According to the report, MSF has “provided free medical treatment not only to registered migrant workers and refugees in Thailand, but also to thousands of undocumented migrants who relied on the group’s projects for medical assistance.”

MSF’s head of mission in Thailand, Denis Penoy, made the following comments on the organization’s withdrawal from Thailand:

Question: Can you briefly explain why the MSF closed its mission in Thailand?

Answer: The decision to close our mission in Thailand is mostly based on administrative blockages we have faced in providing healthcare to vulnerable populations. Despite negotiations with the authorities, we have not been authorized to provide healthcare to undocumented migrants and marginalized populations.

Q: How did the Thai government obstruct MSF’s work in Thailand?

A: We faced some misunderstandings in terms of administrative procedures required to provide healthcare to marginalized populations in Samut Sakhon and Three Pagodas Pass. Despite numerous attempts, it has proved impossible to regularize our administrative situation. Earlier this year we were forced to the close Samut Sakhon and Three Pagodas Pass projects. Maybe the healthcare of undocumented migrants was not their priority.

PPT would be interested to know more about the nature of the obstruction. Local authorities in border areas have strong pressure from the military. Since the 2006 coup and under the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, the military has virtually dictated border policy and has been seen deporting refugees and even persons registered with foreign embassies and the U.N.

Update: MSF’s announcement is here, referring to the months of fruitless negotiation.

Updated: International migrants’ day

18 12 2010

18 December is International Migrants’ Day, and as regular readers of PPT will know, we try to give some coverage to the rights of migrants in Thailand and the abuses they have suffered. Today, the Asian Human Rights Commission has posted a joint statement issued by the State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC), the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) and the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC).

The statement begins with this demand: “Thai government should revoke policies that discriminate against and violate the rights of migrant workers…”. It asks that the government “re-open registration for all migrants in Thailand, review its deportation policy, cooperate with the United Nations in examination of violation of migrant rights, repeal discriminatory policies affecting migrants including wage deductions for a deportation fund and formulate long term migration policies in response to actual labour demand. Thailand and others members of ASEAN should also sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families.”

Noting that there are some 2 million migrants living and working in Thailand and that they are central to the Thai economy and the demand for their labor is increasing. While the government recognizes demand it allows a situation where migrants are abused and subject to discrimination, corruption and abuse of power by state officials and exploitation by employers. “Extensive reports on violation of rights of migrants during deportation have been submitted to the RTG but have not been examined carefully and no-one has been prosecuted.”

That’s a familiar and sad story to anyone who follows Thai politics. Read the full statement and its recommendations.

Update: Readers may be interested in this short report reproduced in total below, coincidentally on International Migrants’ Day, from Bernama:

Thailand plans to import workers from countries which do not share their border with the Kingdom, namely Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh, to solve the problem of unskilled labour shortages in local industries.

According to Thailand News Agency (TNA), Labour Minister Chalermchai Sri-on said that he has ordered parties concerned to study the labour import plan; while his ministry will also resume in 2011 the registration of foreign labourers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia who have worked in Thailand to legalise them–after their work permits expire in February.

Chalermchai revealed that he has also assigned Rajabhat Phranakorn University to conduct a research on overall demand for foreign workers in Thailand to facilitate an effective planning on immigrant labour forces in the future.

Alleged abuse of migrants deported from Thailand

25 10 2010

PPT draws readers’ attention to further information on policies fostered by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government that are detrimental to Burmese migrants and involve their deportation. Readers will remember our earlier posts on Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and his statements here and here.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)has this press release from The State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC), the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) and the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF). In the press release these organizations urge the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to “instruct related UN agencies to urgently investigate allegations of abuse committed against migrants deported from Thailand to Myanmar.” It begins:

THREE rights groups in Thailand have today called on Ban Ki-moon, the United Nation’s (UN) Secretary General, to intervene to prevent further abuse of Myanmar migrants deported from Thailand. The UN Secretary General will visit Bangkok on Tuesday as a guest of the Royal Thai Government (RTG).

The State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC), the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) and the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) call upon the UN Secretary General to instruct related UN agencies to urgently investigate allegations of abuse committed against migrants deported from Thailand to Myanmar. The UN Secretary General should also press the RTG to ensure increased respect for migrant’s human rights and to allow UN experts to visit Thailand to assist in development of future migration policies.

SERC, TLSC and HRDF also today called upon the RTG, in advance of the UN Secretary General’s visit, to ensure transparent investigations into all migrant deportation abuse claims and punish those involved. The RTG should also urgently reconsider its migration policies more generally to ensure respect for migrant’s human rights.

Human rights violations against migrants deported from Thailand to Myanmar continue to be reported. Al-Jazeera reported how migrants deported to Myanmar are being sent to camps controlled by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) where they must pay for their release before being smuggled or trafficked back to Thailand. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) revealed migrants are being sold to traffickers during deportations in waters between Southern Thailand and Kawthuang (Myanmar) and then returned to Thailand. Rights groups have demanded investigations into these allegations since July 2010 but no response has been evident and the abuses continue.

Read the report as it is revealing of state policies fostered under Foreign Minister Kasit.

Kasit on Burma

3 10 2010

In PPT’s post on Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya’s speech at the Asia Society, we had this:

A Q[uestion] on Burma. What’s happening there now? Kasit talks of his “friends” there and their desire for freedom of expression and so on. “The election is a first step back to an open, democratic society, so let’s support them…”. It may not be a completely fair, inclusive election, but it is a first step. Let’s support it. Kasit says he is going to do more about getting the intellectuals and emigres to return to Burma following the election. Is this a suggestion that they will be “trained and deported”?

Simon Roughneen in The Irrawaddy reports further on this remarkable statement and says that Kasit is “working on a plan to repatriate Burmese refugees and intellectuals after the Nov. 7 election, saying that the Thai government will assist in their return to ‘half-democratic’ Burma.” He quotes Kasit as saying that he would “launch a more comprehensive program for the Myanmar people in the camps, the displaced, the intellectuals who run around the streets of Bangkok and Chiang Mai province, to return to Myanmar after the elections.”

Kasit Piromya.

Burmese emigre’s have expressed surprise and think Kasit is out of step “with what the international community…”. Amnesty International’s Benjamin Zawacki refers to the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s “blemished” record on migrants, mentioning Rohingya and Hmong refugees who have been ill-treated and repatriated against their will (or worse).

Roughneen cites “Wong Aung, the coordinator of the Thailand-based Shwe Gas Movement, which raises awareness about the role of Burma’s growing natural resource revenues in sustaining military rule in the country,” who is “concerned about the growing economic ties between Thailand and Burma,” and sees this as undermining any limited, lingering human rights concerns within the Abhisit government.

PPT thinks that economic relations are probably important, however, at the same time, it seems that the Abhisit regime is bent on building a coalition of political support amongst its authoritarian neighbors in Laos, Burma and Vietnam. Relations with Cambodia remain strained, however. Building non-Western support is important for Abhisit’s regime as it adopts increasingly authoritarian political strategies.

And, remembering that Kasit’s main task is Thaksin trailing and hunting, we are told that Kasit believes alliances with neighbors are important in fencing the countries off so that the “evil one,” Thaksin Shinawatra, cannot use them in his attacks on Thailand.

PPT was also interested to see this report also citing the tame and pro-Abhisit regime “human rights lawyer Somchai Homlaor” who says that “any such plan would be against Thai law and international law and would be resisted by the UN and the international community.” Well, yes, but if the Hmong forced repatriation has told Kasit and Abhisit anything, it is that critics are weak-kneed and have short attention spans. And, Somchai himself, as a member of the government’s reform commission and a supporter of the 2006 coup and all that has happened since, demonstrates that even an authoritarian government that shows almost no regard for the human rights of its citizens and less for foreigners can have the support of so-called human rights advocates.

Somchai complains about political prisoners in Burma and to claim that the Burmese election “will not be democratic,” that “the situation there will not get better,” and worries that “refugees will face persecution” if repatriated. That is all correct and needs to be said, indeed shouted out. However, it is a great pity that Somchai does not maintain a consistency on human rights and turn his lens to similar failures in Thailand.

Government continues to ignore human rights and endanger lives

24 02 2010

In The Nation (24 February 2010), Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is reported as confirming that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government is a multiple human rights abuser when it comes to refugees and migrants to Thailand.

Kasit stated that more than half of the 3,000 Karen refugees had already been deported, and were now safe’, dismissing all concerns about their welfare.Sounding very like other authoritarian dolts, the “foreign minister also urged foreign non-governmental organisations to find funds to help the refugees if they were really worried about their conditions.

The really interesting things about this case is how the military and Ministry of Foreign Affairs played the NGOs – both local and foreign – the UN, and the National Human Rights Commission on this. They talked with them but kept going ahead with their deportations. The NHRC, which got plenty of television coverage during its visit to the area, counts for nothing.

As PPT stated previously, this government now has an odious reputation in this area of international concern. It seems clear that Kasit and the government couldn’t care less.

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