Monarchy, junta and a refugee II

4 12 2018

A couple of days ago PPT linked to a despicable tale of Thailand’s junta flouting international norms by detaining an accredited refugee from Australia. Hakeem Al-Araibi, a footballer, was detained at Bangkok’s international airport on an Interpol red notice issued at Bahrain’s request.

The Bangkok Post has noticed the case and has an editorial that states that “the detention is not just legal but conforms in all ways to international norms.” The are citing Immigration Police chief Big Joke (yes, that’s his nickname), Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, a junta minion, close to Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

We are not sure either the Post or Big Joke are correct on this claim about “legality.” After all, Big Joke has previously engaged in illegal and dubious international interventions. In addition, as the Post points out, “case is almost completely opaque.”

In addition, as the Post notes, “Interpol notices are not legally binding, but simply indicate a request from one country to all others for help with alleged fugitives,” meaning claims about “legality” are buffalo manure or a big and sad joke.

So why does the military junta do this? Here’s the reason, as explained by the Post:

The problem is that Araibi is a legal refugee in Australia who is wanted in Bahrain, where he was persecuted and tortured for his political views about the monarchy of that country.

It adds that Big Joke is an “agent of an attempt to merely curry favour with an undemocratic Middle Eastern government.” In fact, Bahrain is about as democratic as Thailand under the military dictatorship and both are more-or-less autocratic monarchies. That fact speaks loudly in this case.

Monarchy, junta and a refugee I

3 12 2018

PPT has been watching the reports about Hakeem Al-Araibi, a footballer, arrested at Bangkok airport on an Interpol red notice issued at Bahrain’s request. He once played for the Bahrain national football team.

The startling thing about this case is that Al-Araibi has refugee status in Australia, documents for travel and plays for a Melbourne football club.

The Guardian reported:

Hakeem Al-Araibi was arrested at Bangkok airport last week on an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain’s request.

A photo from The Guardian

The 25-year-old told SBS News on Sunday that Thai authorities “discreetly” ordered him to book a flight out of the country.

He booked a flight to Melbourne departing Saturday at 9pm. But three hours before the flight he was told he would not be flying to Australia and was taken to Bangkok’s immigration detention centre.

Al-Araibi’s lawyer, Latifa Al-Haouli, told SBS News that authorities from the Bahraini government and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs were “pleading their cases” in regard to his detention.

Australia’s ABC News reports:

A visa granted by the Australian Government was supposed to allow Mr AlAraibi to remain in Australia indefinitely and to travel to and from Australia without having to travel to Bahrain, the country he has sought protection from.

“Hakeem is a refugee accepted by Australia, so Thailand should do the right thing by sending him back to Australia on the next flight,” Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch in Thailand, said last week.

“Under no circumstances should Thai immigration authorities hand him over to Bahrain, where he faces 10 years in prison on a politically motivated conviction and a repeat of the torture he experienced before he fled.

Aljazeera reports:

Araibi, 25, was sentenced to 10 years in absentia by Bahraini authorities in 2014 for vandalising a police station, a charge he denies.

Two years before that, he was arrested and tortured in detention, allegedly for his brother’s political activities during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported.

In that report, HRW’s Brad Adams is reported:

HRW said Thailand is legally bound to respect the international law principle of “non-refoulement”, which prohibits countries from returning anyone to a country where they may face torture or other human rights violations.

“Handing him [Araibi] over to Bahrain would be a heartless act that blatantly violates Thailand’s obligations to protect refugees and opens Bangkok up to a chorus of international criticism…”.

The reasons for Thailand’s strange actions are: first, Bahrain, like Thailand, is a monarchy, one just a little more absolute than the rest; second, both Bahrain and Thailand are holding rigged elections, and both have been chummy since the 2014 coup; and third, Thailand maintains a fiction of not really recognizing refugees and has a sorry recent history of allowing other repressive regimes to pick up refugees in and from Thailand.

Ditching refugees

24 07 2014

So far, the military dictatorship’s record as a heartless bunch of fascists. Coup, jailings, lese majeste repression and stamping on any whiff of anti-coup sentiment is the domestic record. When it comes to international matters, the junta has sucked up to other authoritarian regimes, chased tens of thousands of Cambodian workers out of the country, all it seems for the repatriation of an ultra-nationalist, and it is now ditching tens of thousands of refugees.

On the latter, just to make the refugees more uncomfortable, the regime is even punishing “[t]housands of Burmese at the Ei Htu Hta refugee camp in eastern Burma [who] are struggling to feed themselves as monthly food supplies from non-governmental organizations have been interrupted by Thai authorities…”.

Ei Htu Hta is just across the river from Mae Hong Son Province, and holds about 4,000 Burmese refugees. The secretary of the Karen Office of Relief and Development (KORD) states that “refugees who live in the camp have seen food rations dwindle beginning late last month, as supply lines to the camp, which come from Thailand, have been monitored and sometimes interrupted by Thai authorities.” That’s only since the military coup and the advent of the military dictatorship, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who sees refugees as a threat to Thailand.

The report states that the advent of the junta has brought “changes that have restricted refugees’ movement and sent tens of thousands of migrant workers back to their home countries, fearing detention or worse.”


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.

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.


AI, forced repatriation and the unspoken

8 01 2011

Benjamin Zawacki is Amnesty International’s researcher on Thailand and Burma. He has an opinion piece in the Bangkok Post where he laments the fact that a year after the last op-ed he wrote for the Post a year ago on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s horrendous policy on refugees needs to be restated early in 2011.

As regular readers of PPT will know, we have posted many times on the obnoxious policies implemented by this government as it has repeatedly engaged in forced repatriation of border crossers seeking refuge in Thailand.

Zawacki refers to the late December 2009 when the Thai “army forcibly returned to Laos around 4,500 ethnic minority Hmong, among whom were 158 recognised refugees and many other asylum seekers.” He adds that: “A year later, only the facts had changed: the 166 refugees forcibly returned on Dec 25 had fled fighting in eastern Burma between the Burmese army and several ethnic minority armed groups. Of these refugees, 120 were women and children. They had taken refuge in Waw Lay village in Phop Phra district of Tak province, where authorities had likewise forced back at least 360 Burmese refugees on Dec 8, roughly 650 on Nov 17, and approximately 2,500 on Nov 10, 2010.”

The human rights violations are the same, he says, with a right “not be sent back to fighting or persecution – the principle of non-refoulement.” He adds that, “[o]nce again, Thailand has committed a clear and direct violation of international refugee law.”

In his previous article, Zawacki says he concluded that “Thailand’s disregard for its international legal obligations should not go without a response by the international community”, and he reiterates that for 2011.

Indeed. We agree entirely. The current government’s policies are abysmal and gross violations of human rights.

We wonder, though, if this government will take anything from AI seriously. The problem is that Zawacki and AI have shown themselves to be complicit in a different silence on human rights abuses in Thailand. If AI refuses to take lese majeste seriously, how can its voice be taken seriously on other human rights abuses? AI in Thailand needs human rights consistency if it is to be seen as a fearless protector of human rights.

AI has said almost nothing of consequence on lese majeste or on the detention of hundreds of political prisoners in Thailand.

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.

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