Human rights and the lawless junta

16 03 2017

Readers may recall that, a couple of days ago, PPT posted on the 46 minions of Thailand’s military junta who were going to Geneva to defend the junta in its second review before the Human Rights Committee on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR).

We indicated that this would be defending the indefensible and would amount to a crock of lies.

According to a report at The Nation, that’s how it has turned out.

In fact, in addition to lies, The Nation states that the “Thai delegation has continued to dodge queries about freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and child labour in its response in front of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.”

They stated that “freedom of expression was ‘clearly defined under the law’ with restrictions only to maintain public order and curb violence…”.

On freedom of assembly, the Thai delegation said that “public assemblies were ‘easily granted’ permission, provided that they did not block important public facilities.” The delegation did not answer questions “whether Thai authorities planned to lift restrictions, how many criminal penalties had been imposed and the appeal procedure when permission to assemble was denied.”

Nor did the Thai delegation “touch on the junta’s ban against political gatherings of five or more people, which has been in place since 2014.”

The delegation was unable to answer questions regarding child labor.

The delegation did parrot the junta:

“The [NCPO’s] aim had been to stop the ongoing political conflict and put an end to deep divisions in Thai society,” the Thai delegation said. “The council [junta] attempted to reconcile the different parties to the conflict and present an escalation of the situation.”

The delegation also managed only the one “acceptable” lie on lese majeste:

The lese majeste law gave protection to the King or the Queen, and it was not aimed at curbing the freedom of expression … People charged for lese majeste were [also] entitled to the rights as persons charged for other criminal offences, including the right to a fair trial.

That is a hint on the big lie that underpins the junta’s rule. It is essentially a lawless regime.

Article 44 allows the junta to do anything it wants and that means it is “legal.” That article is granted by a constitution that was put in place by the junta following the illegal 2014 coup. If anything a regime wants to do is “legal,” then there’s no law at all except what the regime deems “law” and “legal.”

There is no rule of law in Thailand, just a regime that is unbridled by law.





The junta’s assault on political expression

8 02 2017

Yesterday we posted on United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye and his denunciation of the military dictatorship’s political repression and especially the political use of lese majeste.

We later added the junta’s asinine response.

Today, the Bangkok Post reports on another critique of the junta and is warping of law in order to wipe out all political opposition. This is a 36-page report from Amnesty International.ai-report

Read it and weep for Thailand:

… Thai authorities have targeted political activists, human rights defenders and others as part of a systematic crackdown on government critics.

Thailand’s military government has frequently resorted to arbitrary detention and criminal proceedings to silence those criticizing the government or raising concerns about political developments in the country. However, it is not only political activists that have been targeted. Human rights researchers have also been investigated for their work on rights violations, lawyers for defending their clients, land rights activists for supporting communities at risk, journalists for reporting on sensitive topics, and academics for expressing opinions on academic freedom.

We haven’t read the whole report yet, but a couple of points might be made.

The first is that the report fails to mention the case of Burin Intin, a welder and a protester, who was arrested in late April 2016 and recently sentenced to more than 11 years for lese majeste. We are not sure why this is, and would appreciate some advice about this omission. Has he been “disowned” by the activists? If so, why?

The second point refers to the emphasis on “civil society.” We know this is AI’s bread and butter, but one thing that mangles Thailand’s politics is the fact that civil society there is politically sliced and diced in much the same way as the whole of political society. Civil society groups do not all support freedom of expression or progressive politics.





More UN concern about human rights

21 08 2016

The Geneva-based Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has issues a media statement on Thailand (again). Here it is in full:

19 August 2016 – The United Nations human rights arm today expressed concern about the mounting constraints on the democratic space in Thailand – calling for a prompt return to civilian rule.

“Following the military coup in May 2014, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression and opinion and assembly have been in place through the use of criminal and military laws and orders, said spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani of the Geneva-based Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

She elaborated that restrictions spiked in the lead-up to this month’s Constitutional Referendum.

“Overall, at least 1,300 people have been summoned, arrested or charged, and 1,629 civilians tried before the military courts,” the spokesperson explained. “Since June, at least 115 people have been arrested or charged under military orders, criminal codes and the Constitution Referendum Act for expressing their opinion on the draft constitution or reporting human rights violations, including torture,” she added.

Twelve people arrested in the Chiang Mai Province in late July remained in detention, along with a student activist who was incarcerated on 6 August. The others were released, but have been charged or remained under investigation.

“We urge Thailand to immediately drop all charges against political activists and human rights defenders, and to release those jailed for voicing dissent on the draft charter in the run-up to the referendum,” underscored Ms. Shamdasani. “We also call on the authorities to suspend the use of military courts and military orders in cases involving civilians.”

She made clear of the urgency in implementing the measures as Thailand moves towards its 2017 election – as proposed in the military Government’s roadmap to restore democracy.

The election next year represents an opportunity for Thailand to meet the commitment it made at the UN Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review in May to respect freedom of expression and, therefore, guarantee a more inclusive and participatory process that involves all political parties, civil society and the media in an open and non-threatening environment.

We are sure that the UN means well, but they still seem unable to comprehend that the military dictatorship allows no democratic space.





Downgrading the NHRC

28 01 2016

As seems appropriate in the current circumstances of military dictatorship and its disdain for human rights, the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has seen a downgrading of Thailand’s  National Human Rights Commission.

The downgrading is entirely appropriate given the politicization and partisanship shown by the NHRC under the failed “leadership” of Amara Pongsapich. Longtime readers will know that PPT has little time for the National Human Rights Commission or Amara. Her lack of knowledge, lack of courage and pandering to royalist regimes has made the organization a joke. Being responsible for human rights should never be a joke, but Amara made the NHRC a joke, biased and an organization that was useless on human rights but serviceable for royalists, rightists and the military.NHRC

The statement below is posted by the OHCHR Southeast Asia Office:

The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) has been downgraded from full membership to observer status after being reviewed by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) – an international body that reviews and assesses performances of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) worldwide.

In an October 2014 review, the ICC expressed concerns about the selection process for commissioners, lack of functional immunity and independence, and the failure to address human rights issues in a timely manner especially in the context of military rule in Thailand. The ICC gave the NHRCT 12 months to provide further information on measures taken to address the concerns. Last November, it recommended the downgrade to “B” status after establishing that the recommendations had not been fully implemented.

“Independent NHRIs play a critical role in promoting and protecting human rights” said Laurent Meillan, acting regional representative of the OHCHR. “Our office will work with the NHRCT, Government, CSOs and academics to support the implementation of the recommendations. This will strengthen the status and protection mandate of the Commission in line with the Paris Principles.”

The ICC’s Sub Committee on Accreditation (SCA) report of the November 2015 session has now been adopted and the results are public.

http://nhri.ohchr.org/…/…/Status%20Accreditation%20Chart.pdf
http://nhri.ohchr.org/…/ICCAccredita…/Pages/SCA-Reports.aspx

During a meeting with new NHRCT commissioners last December, OHCHR discussed the recommendation of the SCA and we offered our full support to help implement the recommendations.

As Thailand prepares a new Constitution, we urge the drafting committee to use this opportunity to take on board the SCA’s recommendations to ensure the NHRCT regains its “A” status.

BACKGROUND:
A” status institutions demonstrate compliance with the Paris Principles. They can participate fully in the international and regional work and meetings of national institutions, as voting members, and they can hold office in the Bureau of the International Coordinating Committee or any sub-committee the Bureau establishes. They are also able to participate in sessions of the Human Rights Council and take the floor under any agenda item, submit documentation and take up separate seating.

“B” status institutions may participate as observers in the international and regional work and meetings of the national human rights institutions. They cannot vote or hold office with the Bureau or its sub-committees. They are not given NHRIs badges, nor may they take the floor under agenda items and submit documentation to the Human Rights Council.

“C” status institutions have no rights or privileges with the ICC or in the United Nations rights forums. They may, at the invention of the Chair of the Bureau, attend meetings of the ICC.





Updated: Investigate abduction, drop charges

23 01 2016

As Thailand’s military dictatorship thumbs its nose at international norms and laws and embeds repression, Human Rights Watch has demanded that the military junta “urgently investigate the abduction and alleged beating and mistreatment of prominent student activist Sirawith Seritiwat by army soldiers” and should “drop charges against peaceful critics and end the military trial of civilians.

That all makes sense to us at PPT, but it will mean little to the military junta and The Dictator. HRW knows this, stating:

“The abduction and apparent mistreatment of a prominent student activist is further glaring evidence that wanton violations of human rights are the norm under the NCPO’s military dictatorship in Thailand,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “What’s even worse is Gen. Prayut brushed off international concerns and condemnation, and appeared to tolerate the abusive treatment Sirawith received by emphasizing the military could ‘use any measure’ to carry out an arrest.”

The extent to which Thailand under the junta has moved to embed authoritarianism, HRW notes that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has not only refused to investigate this abduction but claimed that his military thugs can use “any measures to arrest Sirawith.” HRW quotes The Dictator:

Officials acted on an arrest warrant. He [Sirawith] violated the Public Assembly Bill and the NCPO’s order [Order Number 3/2558, which bans public assembly and political activity] … Officials could use any measures to arrest him. The arrest doesn’t have to happen in front of camera, which could then trigger a protest … Why don’t people respect the laws instead of asking for democracy and human rights all the time? … No one is allowed to oppose [the NCPO]. I dare you to try to oppose [the NCPO] … I don’t care what the international community would think about this. I will send officials to explain to foreign embassies. I am not afraid of them. I will tell them to understand that this is Thailand and we are enforcing Thai laws.

HRW makes quite a few reasonable observations about the decline of rights and freedoms under the junta and its flagrant abuse of international law.

HRW has support in a similar call from the United Nations Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) that has urged the “military to drop all charges against 11 student activists arrested for violating a ban on political gatherings.” Laurent Meillan, the acting OHCHR regional representative, states: “The right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and opinion are fundamental rights and should never be regarded as a serious criminal offence…. We urge the authorities to drop all charges against the students.”

It should not be forgotten that these students are charged because the military junta will not countenance public scrutiny of its projects; in this case, Corruption Park. So far, it has successfully covered up on claims of corruption and managed to have the media lose sight of the case. These students keep it alive, so thuggish repression is deemed necessary.

This junta remains uninterested in human rights, seeing them as a Western plot against the monarchy and junta, and is determined to return Thailand to its dark ages of military repression, aligning its practices with some of the world’s most abusive regimes.

Update: A reader points out that there is a kind of answer to The Dictator available. When he asks: “Why don’t people respect the laws instead of asking for democracy and human rights all the time?”, the well-known historian Nidhi Eowsriwong has a useful essay that can be seen as a riposte. It is his “When Orders Become Law.”





UN Human Rights Office and military detention of civilians

25 11 2015

The following from the UN Human Rights Office:

UN Human Rights Office calls for Thailand to stop civilian detentions in military barracks

(24 November 2015) – The United Nations Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) calls for the immediate closure of a Bangkok military detention facility where two inmates died over the past month, and urges the Thai Government to include independent experts to join an investigation into the cases. UNHR

OHCHR also calls on the Government to stop using military facilities to hold civilian detainees.

On 11 September, the Ministry of Justice issued an order designating the 11th Military Circle as a temporary remand centre to hold individuals on charges related to national security and other special cases

Two people accused of being involved in the deadly Bangkok bombing of 17 August 2015 and three others arrested on fraud and lèse-majesté charges were sent to the facility. Thai authorities said that Pol. Maj. Prakom Warunprapha, one of the lèse-majesté detainees, died at the facility on 23 October after he was found hanging by a shirt in his cell. On 7 November, Mr. Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, another lèse-majesté detainee, was found dead in his cell. Authorities said he died from blood poisoning.

The UN Human Rights Office has asked the Thai Government to conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial inquiry into the two deaths in custody. Matilda Bogner, OHCHR’s regional representative, said an independent and impartial investigation would clarify the circumstances of the deaths, ensure accountability and help prevent further similar incidents. She added, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand should help with any investigation. Bogner also stressed that the results of the inquiry should be made public.

“The use of a military barracks as a detention facility is prone to human rights violations, including torture,” said Bogner.

In October 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment sent a joint letter to the Government concerning allegations of torture and inhuman treatment of five individuals by military officers. In the letter, the UN experts wrote they were concerned by reports that the detainees, who were being held in military facilities in and around Bangkok, were subjected to physical abuse, threats of execution, electrocution and solitary confinement.

Referring to the military detention of civilians, Bogner said it appeared that at least some of the military officers were not suitably trained to run such a detention facility, and that the rights of the detainees had not been fully met. “It was reported that a lawyer representing one of the suspects in the Bangkok bombing case was not allowed to meet with his client in a confidential manner, and that he had his questions screened beforehand,” she said. “ International Law guarantees due process rights for detainees, including prompt, confidential and regular access to lawyers. Breaches of due process rights leads to an environment of increased risk to the safety of detainees.”

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact Jeremy Laurence (+66 84 700 4671 /laurencej@un.org)

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The Regional Office of South-East Asia in Bangkok represents the High Commissioner for Human Rights within South-East Asia. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations and heads the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which spearheads the United Nations’ Human Rights efforts.

OHCHR website: http://www.ohchr.org

OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia website: http://bangkok.ohchr.org





UN appalled

11 08 2015

According to reports in several media, including the Bangkok Post, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that it is “appalled” by the mammoth jail terms meted out to the victims of the draconian lese majeste law under the military dictatorship.

It has “urged Thailand to amend the ‘vague and broad’ statute to bring it in line with international standards.”

International standards would require that this ridiculous and cruel law be abolished.

U.N. spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani “decried the ‘shockingly disproportionate prison terms handed down over the past few months in lese-majeste cases’.”

This refers to several recent sentences that have been for 30, 56 and 60 years, each reduced by half after the defendants confessed. They confess under tremendous pressure and threats by the authorities.

The U.N. spokesperson observed that these “are the heaviest sentences we have recorded since 2006, when we began documenting cases of individuals prosecuted for lese majeste offences for exercising the right to freedom of expression…”.

The U.N. comes up with a different number of cases than in recent reports, stating that since the “May 2014 military coup, at least 40 individuals have either been convicted or remain in pre-trial detention for lese majeste offences, both under Section 112 and under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act…”.

PPT has a much higher number recorded.

The U.N. states:

We are also alarmed at the spike in harsh prison terms delivered in such cases by the military courts, which themselves fail to meet international human rights standards, including the right to a fair trial. Observers have been barred from entry and in many instances there is no option for appeal….

International law requires that trials of civilians by military courts should be exceptional, and military trials must afford all due process guarantees provided for under international human rights law….

The U.N. goes on to make demands:

We call for the immediate release of all those who have been jailed or held in prolonged pre-trial detention for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression. We also urge the military government to amend the vague and broad lese majeste law to bring it in line with international human rights standards….

It adds that the law is “used arbitrarily to curb debate on critical issues of public interest…”.





UN Human Rights Office for South East Asia on arrested students

30 06 2015

PRESS RELEASE: OHCHR URGES THAILAND TO RELEASE STUDENTS

BANGKOK (30 JUNE 2015) – The United Nations Human Rights Office for South East Asia (OHCHR) urges the Government to promptly drop criminal charges against students who have been arrested in Bangkok for peacefully demonstrating in public and release them from custody. It further urges the Government to review its use of laws that limit freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in line with its obligations under international human rights law.

On 26 June, police and soldiers arrested 14 students in Bangkok based on a warrant issued by the military court for allegedly inciting unrest under section 116 of the Criminal Code. The charges relate to a demonstration held by the students at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on 25 June. Section 116 carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

The students already had arrest warrants issued against them for having conducted peaceful demonstrations in Bangkok and Khon Kaen on 22 May to mark the first anniversary of the coup d’état, allegedly in breach of Order No. 3/2015 of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The NCPO Order prohibits political gatherings of more than five people with a maximum sentence of six months in prison.

Another two students appeared at the military court in Bangkok on 29 June for breaching the NCPO order for participating in the 22 May demonstrations. One reported himself to the police on 22 June and was later released on bail. The other student was arrested at hospital based on a warrant while she was receiving medical treatment.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Thailand has the obligation to uphold the right to freedom of expression (article 19) and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly (article 21). Although both articles allow the rights to be restricted, any restriction has to be by law, necessary for a legitimate purpose and proportional to achieve the need. OHCHR is concerned that criminal prosecutions for peaceful assembly and expression that carry long prison terms are not necessary or proportional.

On 23 May 2014, a day after the coup d’état, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly expressed serious concern about the restrictions on fundamental freedoms imposed by the NCPO, adding that freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are particularly important in resolving difficult political issues through dialogue and debate. Now more than one year on, despite pledges by the Government to promptly restore the rule of law, restrictions on fundamental freedoms remain in place.

ENDS

The Regional Office for South-East Asia in Bangkok represents the High Commissioner for Human Rights within South East Asia. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations and heads the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which spearheads the United Nations’ human rights efforts.

OHCHR website: http://www.ohchr.org
OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia website:
http://bangkok.ohchr.org/
แถลงการณ์สำนักงานข้าหลวงใหญ่เพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชนภูมิภาคเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้

สำนักงานข้าหลวงใหญ่เพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งสหประชาชาติเรียกร้องให้รัฐบาลไทยปล่อยตัวนักศึกษา

กรุงเทพมหานคร (30 มิถุนายน 2558) – สำนักงานข้าหลวงใหญ่เพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งสหประชาชาติ
ภูมิภาคเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้ (OHCHR) เรียกร้องให้รัฐบาลไทยยุติการดำเนินคดีอาญาต่อนักศึกษาซึ่ง
ถูกจับกุมเนื่องจากการชุมนุมโดยสงบในที่สาธารณะในกรุงเทพฯ และปล่อยตัวพวกเขาจากสถานที่ควบคุม
โดยทันที สำนักงานข้าหลวงใหญ่ฯ ยังเรียกร้องให้รัฐบาลไทยทบทวนการใช้กฎหมายที่จำกัดเสรีภาพใน
การแสดงออกและเสรีภาพในการชุมนุมให้สอดคล้องกับพันธกรณีของไทยภายใต้กฎหมายสิทธิ
มนุษยชนระหว่างประเทศ

เมื่อวันที่ 26 มิถุนายน เจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจและทหารจับกุมนักศึกษา 14 คน ในกรุงเทพฯ ตามหมายจับที่
ออกโดยศาลทหารในข้อกล่าวหาว่าร่วมกันกระทำเพื่อก่อความไม่สงบขึ้นในราชอาณาจักร ตามมาตรา
116 ของประมวลกฎหมายอาญา ข้อกล่าวหานี้ถูกเชื่อมโยงกับการชุมนุมที่นักศึกษาจัดขึ้นที่อนุสาวรีย์
ประชาธิปไตย ในกรุงเทพฯ เมื่อวันที่ 25 มิถุนายน มาตรา 116 มีระวางโทษสูงสุด จำคุกไม่เกินเจ็ดปี

นักศึกษาได้ถูกออกหมายจับมาก่อนแล้วจากการจัดการชุมนุมโดยสงบทั้งในกรุงเทพฯ และในจังหวัดขอน
แก่น เมื่อวันที่ 22 พฤษภาคม ที่ผ่านมาในโอกาสครบรอบหนึ่งปีรัฐประหาร การชุมนุมดังกล่าวถูกกล่าวหา
ว่าฝ่าฝืนคำสั่งฉบับที่ 3/2558 ของคณะรักษาความสงบแห่งชาติ (คสช.) ซึ่งระบุห้ามการชุมนุมทาง
การเมืองที่มีจำนวนตั้งแต่ห้าคนขึ้นไป และมีระวางโทษสูงสุด จำคุกไม่เกินหกเดือน

เมื่อวันที่ 29 มิถุนายน นักศึกษาอีกสองคนถูกดำเนินคดีในศาลทหารกรุงเทพฯ ในข้อหาฝ่าฝืนคำ
สั่งคสช.และเข้าร่วมการชุมนุมเมื่อวันที่ 22 พฤษภาคม นักศึกษาคนหนึ่งเข้ารายงานตัวกับตำรวจเมื่อวันที่
22 มิถุนายนและได้รับการประกันตัว ในขณะที่ นักศึกษาอีกคนหนึ่งถูกจับกุมจากหมายจับดังกล่าวระหว่าง
กำลังเข้ารับการรักษาที่โรงพยาบาล

ประเทศไทยในฐานะที่เป็นภาคีสมาชิกของกติการะหว่างประเทศว่าด้วยสิทธิพลเมืองและสิทธิทาง
การเมือง มีพันธกรณีที่จะต้องรับรองสิทธิที่จะมีเสรีภาพในการแสดงออก (ข้อ 19) และ สิทธิที่จะมีเสรี
ภาพในการชุมนุมโดยสงบ (ข้อ 21) แม้ว่าสิทธิทั้งสองตามกติการะหว่างประเทศนี้จะสามารถถูกจำกัด
ได้ แต่การจำกัดสิทธิดังกล่าวต้องเป็นไปตามที่กฎหมายกำหนด และคำนึงถึงความจำเป็นว่าเป็นไปเพื่อ
วัตถุประสงค์ที่มีความชอบธรรมหรือไม่ และได้สัดส่วนกับความจำเป็นหรือไม่ สำนักงานข้าหลวงใหญ่ฯ มี
ความกังวลว่าการดำเนินคดีอาญาที่มีระวางโทษจำคุกยาวนานต่อการใช้เสรีภาพในการชุมนุมโดยสงบและ
การแสดงออก ถือว่าไม่มีความจำเป็นและไม่ได้สัดส่วน

เมื่อวันที่ 23 พฤษภาคม 2557 หนึ่งวันหลังจากที่มีการรัฐประหาร ข้าหลวงใหญ่เพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่ง
สหประชาชาติแสดงความกังวลอย่างยิ่งต่อการจำกัดเสรีภาพขั้นพื้นฐานโดยคสช. โดยให้ความเห็นว่าเสรี
ภาพในการแสดงออกและเสรีภาพในการชุมนุมมีความสำคัญอย่างยิ่งต่อการแก้ไขประเด็นปัญหาทาง
การเมืองที่ยุ่งยากโดยผ่านการพูดคุยหารือและการอภิปราย ขณะนี้ นับเป็นเวลามากกว่าหนึ่งปีแล้ว แม้
รัฐบาลจะให้คำมั่นว่าจะนำหลักนิติธรรมกลับคืนมา แต่การจำกัดเสรีภาพขั้นพื้นฐานยังคงมีอยู่ต่อไป
จบ

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Regional Office for South-East Asia
ESCAP, UN Secretariat Building
6th Floor, Block A
Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok 10200
Tel. (662) 288 1235, Fax. (662) 288 1039
Website: http://bangkok.ohchr.org
Email: ohchr.bangkok@un.org





NHRC does not understand human rights

7 05 2015

PPT has long posted on the sorry case of the National Human Rights Commission and its failure to defend human rights in Thailand. It has been poorly led, has been partisan and has exhibited a failure of understanding of even the most basic principles of human rights.

The exposure of the gruesome and reprehensible trafficking of persons in Southern Thailand, known for many years, and aided and abetted by powerful civil and military officials, provides one more sorry example of the failure of the NHRC.

In this latest human trafficking scandal, the involvement of officials is clearly recognized. For example, Reuters reports that:

Asked by reporters whether there had been official complicity in trafficking humans, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters in Bangkok: “There must be. This is not acceptable.”

It is reported that police claim to have “issued a total of 18 arrest warrants in connection with the detention camps and trafficking network. The suspects include police officers and local administrative officials. Six people have been arrested so far…”. It is further reported that “at least 50 police officers in southern Thailand, including high-ranking commanders, were transferred following the discovery of the suspected trafficking camps.”

More broadly, as Khaosod notes,

For years, successive Thai governments have failed to effectively dismantle trafficking networks in the country, in part because of the protection offered by some Thai officials involved in the lucrative trade.

Last year, the United States government cited the complicity of Thai officials as one the reasons for downgrading Thailand to the lowest rank in its annual assessment of how foreign governments combat human trafficking.

The NHRC seems to have been unable to vigorously pursue cases of human trafficking in previous years, including the reprehensible actions under previous governments. NHRC

In the present circumstances, where major crimes have been reported, including murder and human trafficking, with acknowledged official involvement and more, it might be considered important for the NHRC to be involved and making recommendations including about prosecutions, inquiries and more.

Unfortunately, it seems the best this failed agency can do is for Niran Pithakwatchara, usually considered one of the more reasonable commissioners at the NHRC, to suggest that the military dictatorship use it draconian powers under Article 44. He says:

If the government exercises its power under Article 44 to solve this problem, especially by using the administrative power to deal with bureaucrats or local politicians who are involved, and to root out the causes of the problem, then it may be a good solution.

Not that long ago, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “expressed alarm at the Thai military Government’s announcement that it has invoked an article of the Interim Constitution that bestows unfettered authority on the head of the military government.” The Commissioner explained:

I am alarmed at the decision to replace martial law with something even more draconian, which bestows unlimited powers on the current Prime Minister without any judicial oversight at all. This clearly leaves the door wide open to serious violations of fundamental human rights.

Yet this is the Article the NHRC suggests be invoked. We can only despair for human rights in Thailand when even the official protectors of human rights seem unable or unwilling to comprehend the most basic principles.





Protecting police business

31 10 2014

Recalling police boss Somyos Pumpanmuang’s links to the Tungkum Company and his massive wealth, we felt this press relase deserved attention:

PRESS RELEASE

Criminal Defamation Case against Loei Human Rights Defenders

BANGKOK (31 October 2014) – The United Nations Human Rights Office for South East Asia (OHCHR) is seriously concerned that criminal defamation is being used in Thailand as a means to pressure human rights defenders. In the latest example on 29 October, the Phuket Provincial Court decided to proceed with a criminal defamation suit against Mr. Surapan Rujichaiwat from Loei province in north-eastern Thailand. The suit has been brought by Tungkum Company Limited, a mining company. It has also brought a number of other civil and criminal cases against members of the Khon Rak Ban Koed Group (KRBK), including Ms. Porntip Hongchai, who is due to appear at the same court on 3 November on criminal defamation charges. The criminal defamation cases followed the 15 May incident in which a group of armed men attacked and injured more than 20 villagers, including members of the KRBK, who were blockading the transportation of minerals.

OHCHR is concerned by the continuation of the lawsuit as it appears that it is being used to silence those who raise legitimate issues publicly and echoes a trend of the use of defamation suits against human rights defenders. OHCHR is aware of at least five other human rights defenders facing criminal defamation cases for raising issues such as trafficking, labour rights and torture.

The criminalisation of defamation has a chilling effect and can unduly restrict freedom of expression. Human rights defenders need the full protection of the state to carry out their work without fear of criminal prosecution. We urge the Government of Thailand to carefully review such cases and ensure the full compliance with international human rights standards.

ENDS

The Regional Office for South-East Asia in Bangkok represents the High Commissioner for Human Rights within South East Asia. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations and heads the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which spearheads the United Nations’ human rights efforts.

OHCHR website: http://www.ohchr.org
OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia website: http://bangkok.ohchr.org/

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for South-East Asia
ESCAP, UN Secretariat Building
6th Floor, Block A
Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok 10200
Tel. (662) 288 1235, Fax. (662) 288 1039
Website: http://bangkok.ohchr.org
Email: ohchr.bangkok@un.org

As posted previously, Police General Somyos Pumpanmuang has amassed declared assets of almost 375 million baht. We have previously noted this cop’s connections with shady business groups that use men-in-black to harass the villagers now being taken to court. Maybe that’s how he acquired so much land.