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.





Responses to Wikileaks on monarchy and coups

15 12 2010

PPT has to admit that it was somewhat surprised that the Bangkok Post reported the Wikileaked cable on the queen and the 2006 coup, even if it is from AFP. And, that it has this in the story: “Queen Sirikit, 78, is the wife of Thailand’s deeply-revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Any discussion of the royal family is an extremely sensitive topic and insulting the monarchy is a serious offence punishable by up to 15 years in jail.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has jumped in, and is reported this way: “Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said the government could not comment on the authenticity of the leaked diplomatic documents because they were not its own. ‘We want to reiterate the the Thai monarchy is above partisan politics, and above political conflicts that have occurred,’ he told AFP. ‘In the recent past, there have been efforts by some parties involved in the political conflicts to draw the monarchy into the political fray. We should not give credence to such efforts’.” Maybe he should have just quipped, “Hell, what do we do now…”.

We should add that we can no longer locate the AFP story on the Bangkok Post website, except as the print file linked above. The actual story and headlines has gone.

Meanwhile, more in line with expectations, this is The Nation’s report:

Samak’s spirit returning from the grave?

Published on December 15, 2010

The late prime minister Samak Sundaravej was known for his outspokenness. The publication of United States diplomatic cables by Wikileaks as printed in England’s Guardian newspaper has rekindled the controversy for Samak’s remarks made when he was alive in 2008.

It is general knowledge that Samak believed in a conspiracy theory behind the 2006 coup to oust the then prime minister Thaksin Shinwatra. A number of red-shirt leaders too subscribed to such theory.

Spearheading to publish Wikileaks, Guardian has opened a Q&A column for its readers to search for contents of the diplomatic cables. Some identified users asked for contents related to Thailand.

Of more than 250,000 cables, some 3,000 were referenced to the Kingdom. The newspaper on Thursday published four with a particular reference to the power seizure. Two of four cables referred to Samak’s views on two separate issues – the coup and his downfall.

What Samak told US Ambassador Eric John was nothing new but a rehash of the conspiracy theory. And how he drew his conclusion would remain a mystery since he was already in his grave.

At their protests, the red-shirt leaders, especially Surachai Sae Dan, made much more slanderous remarks about the coup than what Samak said.

From the red point of view, the Privy Council and its presicent [PPT thinks they mean “president”] General Prem Tinsulanonda were the culprits for the regression of democracy. But Samak told the US ambassador that Prem was a mere pawn.

Notice anything missing? Of course, it is that there is no mention at all of the queen, king, monarchy. The Nation’s royalists are clearly beginning their approach to this by alleging a conspiracy – nasty types asking for information on Thailand – and by attacking  their political opponents. Not too far removed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs approach, just more aggressive. PPT would expect that this will morph into a semi-official line.





Thailand is free! Well, maybe not….

9 12 2010

Well, that seems to be the view of propagandist Thani Thongphakdi, the Acting Director-General of the Department of Information at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who has a letter to the Epoch Times, where he says many of the same things that his boss Kasit Piromya and his boss Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva have repeatedly claimed.

Thani writes in response to a report by James Burke in the Epoch Times headlined “Fear, Loathing and a Bit of Shopping in Bangkok,” published way back on 21 November. Thani may be a slow reader or it may be that he needed his bosses to approve his reply, but on 8 December, his letter states: “I wish to set the facts straight…”. A bad start, perhaps, but he says: “to say that there is ‘widespread media and Internet censorship’ in Thailand is sheer exaggeration.”

Really? Has Thani been living under a rock or in another country? Apparently not, for he asserts: “freedom of expression is not without its limits, particularly when it comes to respect of the rights or reputations of others, and protection of national security and public order. Abuse of the media to spread distorted information and hate messages to manipulate and incite violence and hatred among people is against Thai laws and has to be dealt with accordingly.” That’s a line that has been spun for several months.

Most websites that are blocked – PPT included – only fit into these categories if the definitions used are that criticism of the government, military murder, the monarchy and corruption are “hate speech” or are threats to an establishment definition of “national security.” In other words, the government that bans and censors tens of thousands of sites does so in an opaque manner, using whatever definitions that they come up with for their own political purposes.

He then asserts: “to say that there continues to be ‘arbitrary arrests and detentions without charge’ in Thailand is simply not true.” Think here of these cases posted on at PPT: here, here and here (and these are just three examples of arbitrary and even illegal arrests and claims of torture).

And, just for good measure, Thani says: “the Government’s reconciliation plan is making steady progress.” Only Thani and diehard government supporters believe that.

The nice twist to this letter is that the editors of the Epoch Times respond, saying:

Human Rights Watch, in a Nov. 24 release, says, “Thai authorities are using emergency powers to violate fundamental rights and obstruct efforts to bring abusers to justice six months after violent clashes between anti-government groups and government security forces.”

In that same release, Sophie Richardson, acting Asia director for Human Rights Watch, is quoted as saying, “The rolling restrictions on free expression through emergency powers are nothing less than a national regime of censorship, which obstructs prospects for lasting political reconciliation and the restoration of human rights and democracy.”

Reporters Without Borders in a July 29 release says, “Control of media that are affiliated to or support the Red Shirt movement has been reinforced considerably since a state of emergency was imposed in Bangkok and many other provinces. A TV station, radio stations, websites and newspapers have been censored, banned, forcibly closed or prosecuted.”

Touché….





With 4 updates: The throwback regime and limiting human rights

12 09 2010

As so often happens when a regime takes the authoritarian path, its ideas about what constitutes good practice become warped by the authoritarian mindset. In the message provided by the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand (FCCT) to its members and friends, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by Kasit Piromya, is seen to be attempting to limit the discussion of human rights in Thailand – even human rights in a foreign country.

While this kind of limitation has been seen in the past, especially related to ASEAN, this current situation is a clear indication that Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Thailand is really a throwback regime that pines for the control of past military dictatorships.

Note especially that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that it will deny visas to participants and the huge pressure placed on the FCCT. (Political) dinosaurs have been not only reincarnated in Abhisit’s Thailand but dominate the ministries and security forces.

FCCT Under Pressure to Cancel Press Conference

Sunday 12th September 2010

To Members and Guests:

Approximately one month ago, the FCCT accepted a booking from the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) for them to hold a press conference in the Clubhouse launching a new report, “From Rhetoric to Reality: Human Rights in Vietnam”, on Monday, September 13th.

The event has been publicised continuously in The Bulletin, our weekly e-newsletter, since August 16th.

However, this past Thursday evening, September 9th, we were contacted by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking that we cancel the press conference as it might contain information detrimental to a neighbouring country. We pointed out that this press conference was not sponsored by the FCCT but was a paid event, at which point the Ministry asked us to convey to the event organisers that it was Thailand’s intention to deny visas to the scheduled speakers.

We declined to accept that responsibility, reasoning that it was improper for us to act as a messenger in what should be a confidential matter between individuals and a sovereign government, over which we had no control and in which we had no legal standing.

As for taking action to cancel the press conference, we asked the Ministry to explain its position in writing. On Friday evening, we received an e-mail from Khun Thani Thongphakdi, the Ministry’s acting director general of the department of information.

It stated:

“I wish to refer to the press conference to be organized by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) to launch its report, ‘From Rhetoric to Reality: HUMAN RIGHTS IN VIETNAM, Under its Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2010′, which is scheduled to be held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) on Monday 13 September 2010.

“While the Royal Thai Government attaches great importance to the principles of freedom of expression and diversity of views, it also has a long-standing position of not allowing organizations and/or persons to use Thailand as a place to conduct activities detrimental to other countries. I therefore hope that the FCCT will respect this position and not allow its premises to be used for such activities.

“I thank you for your understanding and cooperation.”

The FCCT attaches great importance to the principles of free expression and diversity of views. We also appreciate the importance the Thai government has placed in such principles, as stated in the Foreign Ministry’s note.

We feel it is unfortunate that the Thai government has chosen to apply pressure on us in this way. We would appreciate if the government reconsiders the wisdom of such pressure.

As of Sunday morning, the FCCT has not been informed by the Paris-based organisers of the press conference that the event has been cancelled.

Executive Committee,

FCCT

Update 1: The FCCT has just released this:

Paris-based Human Rights Groups Cancel Press Conference on Monday, September 13

The FCCT has received the following statement:

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) regret to inform you that our organisations have decided to cancel the press conference planned for September 13th, 2010 at the FCCT to launch our report, “From “vision” to facts: human rights in Vietnam under its chairmanship of ASEAN,” due to the fact that both of our speakers have been denied entry into Thailand by the Thai authorities. Please inform your members and others accordingly. [PPT added the emphasis]

International Federation for Human Rights and Vietnam Committee on Human Rights.

Another victory for the forces of darkness in Thailand.

Update 2: Bangkok Post has a story that “Thailand” has been criticized by “Human Rights Watch for its decision to deny visas to activists and ban a media event in Bangkok organised to criticise Vietnam.” There’s a nice little line in the report attributed to Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi, who appears to suffer convenient amnesia when he says: “the government had a policy not to allow any person or group to use the kingdom to attack other countries.” That must exclude loads of Burmese political emigres and all yellow shirts who attack Cambodia and any other country they think is pro-Thaksin Shinawatra.

Sunai Phasuk of HRWcriticised the government’s decision, adding: ”It is disappointing to see a key player on human rights issues in Asean like Thailand adopt this kind of culture…”. Sunai is living in the past for Thailand has hardly been a “key player” for several years, and this government’s human rights record is more than a little tainted.

Update 3: In another story at the Bangkok Post, the FIDH “has strongly criticized Thailand collusion with Vietnam in censoring discussions on Vietnam’s human rights issues in the Thai soil.” Prior to his departure, VCHR’s Vo Van Ai reportedly “received a call from the Thai embassy in Paris, and was told that in spite of the fact that he had obtained a visa for Thailand, he would not be allowed to enter Thai territory, following a request by the Vietnamese government.” His colleague in the now-canceled event, Penelope Faulkner was refused boarding at Paris airport and was told this was because “she would not be allowed to enter the Thai territory upon arrival in Bangkok.”

The Abhisit Vejjiva government stands accused of violating “the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders…”. HRW has stated: “Thailand currently chairs the UN Human Rights Council, and should uphold the highest human rights standards. The Thai government owes the FCCT and the public an explanation why instead it took a page from Hanoi’s playbook…”.

Update 4: As a comparison of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs double standards under Foreign Minister Kasit, note the report in The Irrawaddy on the Thai representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) calling for a UN investigation of “crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma…”. Sriprapha Phetmeesri spoke “on the sidelines of a seminar at Chiang Mai University attended by some 70 participants…”.

PPT agrees entirely and welcomes her call. But why is it that double standards apply to Burma and Vietnam? Kasit and Abhisit need to explain exactly what Thailand’s curren policies really are.








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