With 3 updates: Arresting protesters

18 02 2017

Several reports say that the military junta has moved against anti-coal-fired power station protest leaders.

Khaosod reports that the junta’s thugs arrested “three activists who led an overnight protest in front of the Government House against the regime’s plan to build a coal power plant in the south.”

At least “100 protesters from Krabi province demanded the government scrap the project, citing fears of environmental and health damages, only to be told by junta chairman [General] Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday the construction will go ahead as planned.”

They rallied at Government House overnight and in the morning, police “moved in and arrested three protest leaders and took them into custody.”

The police arrested Prasitthichai Nunual, Akaradej Chakjinda and Mom Luang Rungkhun Kitiyakara. Yes, that’s a princely Kritayakara.

Later, another two were arrested.

The Dictator had warned them not to rally. They rallied. He had them arrested. Like anti-junta protesters, they were all taken to the 11th Military Circle military base. They are charged with “violating the military government’s order against gatherings of five people or more after they refused to end the rally…”. They will be dragged before a “civilian court on Monday.”

As might be expected when southerners and members of the elite are arrested, immediately, a “network of southern academics and communities urged the government to release the detainees and reconsider the plan to build the 780-megawatt power plant.” These academics and “communities” declared that the “arrest of the key leaders to put pressure on the rally to end is against basic rights and humanitarian acts…”.

We don’t like coal-fired power stations. Even so, we have to ask: Where were this network when the student anti-coup activists have been arrested, abducted and charged?

Then the “Thai Labour Solidarity Committee pledged to stay behind the protesters to block the project. It called for an end to government attempts to end the rally as it could lead to more confrontations and conflict.”

Where were they when the student anti-coup activists have been arrested, abducted and charged?

Oh, yes, those arrested are among those who might have supported the coup.

And there’s the rub. The junta is going after its own supporters because they are behaving “badly.” We expect that even the dullards who inhabit the junta will quickly work out that this might not be a great political move. If they don’t, maybe some of the current protesters will get a lesson in junta politics.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post reports that a further 12 protesters were taken away but later released. Some “100 Krabi residents were staying near to Government House” and the Post suggests that “the number is expected to swell considerably after news that representatives from Save the Andaman from Coal’s 51 allies are going to join are going to join the group in Bangkok.”

The detained protesters got a visit from national human rights commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit. Remarkably, given that it is generally silent, she suggested that the National Human Rights Commission “is considering making a statement about reminding the government it needs to understand people’s rights and the freedom to hold a peaceful protest.”

In fact, this protest has been no less peaceful than those held by student activists and and anti-coup activists.

Junta mouthpieces were active, seemingly seeking to downplay notions that there is any political conflict.

Colonel Winthai Suvaree “said the leaders were taken for talks to find a solution to the issue. Police have not yet pressed any charges against them…”. Meanwhile Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the “arrests were made because the protesters failed to disperse or move to a designated protest area set aside by authorities, who were trying to negotiate with the group.”

Update 2: The Nation reports that 16 protesters were arrested. It also reports that “[l]egal experts condemned the move, saying it was a severe violation of the protesters’ rights and demanded that they be released immediately.” The lawyers stated that the arrests “violated basic human rights and it was a misuse of power.”

Where were they when student activists and anti-coup activists were repeatedly arrested? Exercising their double standards?

This doesn’t apply to Chainarong Sretthachau, a lecturer at Mahasarakham University, who has supported students in the northeast in environmental protest. He made the good point that the “use of absolute power to crack down on peaceful protesters was a violation of human rights, because the Thai government had ratified international agreements.”

Update 3: The junta has sorted things out, solving its apparent political contradiction. The Bangkok Post reports that the detained “[f]ive leaders of the protest … have been released and demonstrators dispersed after the government agreed to renew the project’s environmental impact assessment and the environmental health impact assessment.” Sansern said this resulted from “talks between representatives of the government and core leaders and coordinators of the Save the Andaman from Coal group who had submitted a proposal to the government.”

We guess the realization that they were feuding with allies was a consideration. As the mouthpiece explained, “It should be made clear that the government is concerned about the people.” Its people.

This seems important as the Save the Andaman from Coal group declared “talks with the government representatives went smoothly. The protest leaders had been well looked after and the government had agreed to their proposals.” The group ended the protest and said that “protesters were set to return to their home province on Sunday. He said police would provide them with transport as well as food and water.” How nice.

The political nature of the agreement was emphasized when the five protest leaders who had been arrested “were brought to the protest site by Government House … and released…. They were accompanied by Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong, commander of the 1st Army, and Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, the police chief.” How politically nice.





Updated: Organized labor is always suspect

13 01 2016

Despite the fact that some elements of the now very small labor movement in Thailand has tended to be quite supportive of the two most recent military coups and anti-democrat protests, the military dictatorship still doesn’t trust organized  labor.

Most support for the rightists and militarists has come from state enterprise unions, which have been led around by the nose under the influence of Somsak Kosaisuk, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy back when Thaksin Shinawatra was under attack.

Of course, the military goons have long tried to control and weaken organized labor and have often been in the pay of employers keen to repress any organization among workers.

Last week, as reported at Prachatai, leaders of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) complained that military and police officers have intimidated  them. This comes “several days after the committee investigated the detention of labour union leaders of an electrical appliance company.”

Wilaiwan Sae-tia, president of the TLSC, said she was being followed by “4-5 military officers both in uniform and plainclothes” at her workplace and her home.

Yongyut Mentapao, TLSC’s vice president, also says he “had been followed by military and police officers from unidentified units…. He filed a complaint at a police station about the intimidation…”.

This followed “the detention of Chalee Loysoong, [another] TLSC Vice President, and Amorndech Srimuang, leader of the labour union of Sanko Gosei Technology Ltd., an electrical appliance manufacturer in the eastern province of Rayong, on Tuesday, 6 January 2016.”

These two were detained at the Ministry of Labor because “they led about 500 Sanko Gosei workers to the Ministry to ask Gen Sirichai Distakul, the Labour Minister, for assistance in negotiating with Sanko Gosei.” That company had closed and had protesting workers thrown out.

In detaining the union leaders, the police threatened them with charges for unlawful assembly.

As usual, the regime’s thugs work for employers and against any effort by people to organize or mobilize. Untamed union leaders are thus a threat.

Update: Demonstrating their thuggishness and incapacity for much other than repression, the dolts in the military decied to “visit” – i.e., threaten – Wilaiwan “at the office of the Om Noi/Om Yai Labour Union in Samut Sakhon Province.” About five men in uniform were responding to the statement by TLSC “condemning the authorities for using the Public Assembly Act and detaining labour union members” protesting the event outlined above.

The politically daft thugs “cited their authority under Section 44 of the Interim Charter, which gives officers absolute power to maintain security, and informed the TLSC leader that from now on she must inform the military first before making any political moves.”





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.





On the emergency decree

6 09 2010

Bangkok and several provinces remain under the provisions of the emergency decree, months after it was first instituted against red shirt protesters. The Bangkok Post has a special report on the decree, worth reading in full. Some of the points made include:

The decree gives the state sweeping authority to ban public gatherings of more than five people which could be determined as a potential cause of unrest. It also allows restrictions on news media and other forms of communications which might contain content seen as provocative, and it restricts the use of public streets or vehicles and allows for certain areas to be declared off-limits. It is not clear how many people have been held for violating the emergency decree. But the Justice Ministry, in June, reported that about 100 suspects had been detained.

On the numbers held, see PPT’s earlier post.

Human rights advocates and university lecturers warn that any further extension of the decree will do more harm than good to the country. They say the government must revoke the decree in all provinces where it remains in effect as soon as possible. They also question whether the government continues to impose it simply as a tool to suppress its opponents.

PPT was interested in some of these comments.

Angkhana Neelaphaijit of the Working Group on Justice and Peace said the decree was “exacerbating the discord between the authorities and the UDD supporters.” She added that the decree had “violated the basic human rights of those arrested under the security law.” She pointed out that the decree had been in place in the south for several years: “There, many of those arrested have disappeared after release from detention.”

Wilaiwan Sae-tia of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee also stated that “the decree had limited the freedom of expression and right of assembly of social activists over the past five months.” She complained: “We can’t carry out any social activities and we don’t even have the chance to express our opinions or [have the right to] demand that the government solves our problems…”.

Meanwhile, Somchai Preechasilpakul, from the law faculty at Chiang Mai University, said “the emergency decree was aimed more at getting rid of the government’s opponents than it was at keeping the peace.” He pointed out that in the north, “many community radio stations in Chiang Mai had been shut down because they were critical of the government. Red shirt supporters have also been reportedly arrested and have since disappeared.”

They are contradicted by die-hard security advocate and acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the “government needed to evaluate the situation very carefully before lifting the emergency decree in the remaining seven provinces. It would have to look at the impact the emergency was having on tourism and investment. He could look at the Bangkok Post’s photo below and wonder what tourists think.