Military justice

18 11 2016

A few days ago, the BBC reported that “[t]he trial of two suspects accused of being behind a bomb attack that killed 20 people in August last year in central Bangkok is under way.” SBS Australia reported that this was a “long-delayed trial.” The two men appeared before a Military Court.

This delayed trial was “underway” for just one day. The military court will not convene again until 6 March 2017, and then it will continue hearing evidence from the same policeman who testified on the only day of the trial.

The bombing took place on 17 August 2015, inside the Erawan Shrine at the Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok, Thailand, killing 20 people and injuring 125. The two suspects, Adem Karadag, 31, also said to be known as Bilal Mohammed, was identified as the bomber on 26 September while being held in police custody. He was claimed to have confessed. Karadag later retracted his confession with his lawyer saying Karadag had been tortured. His co-defendant is Yusufu Mieraili, 26, who has denied the charges.

SBS states:

Thailand’s junta has been criticised for a murky investigation that appeared to wind down shortly after the arrest of the two men, leaving more than a dozen named suspects — including alleged masterminds — still at large.

Police and army officials also made confusing and often contradictory statements during the investigation.

“Murky” is a good description. And as it was murky in investigation, the military’s judicial system looks like being equally murky.

One of the reported problems with getting the trial underway has been getting interpreters for the defendants. The first interpreter was Sirojdolin Bakhodirov, said to be an Uzbek national. He came on board in February 2016. However, in late May 2016, he provided testimony to a military court that:

he was attacked and threatened by the four men [on] May 18, one day after both Uighur suspects broke down outside the court in front of the press and insisted on their innocence. He recalled that the men told him to stop “helping two Uighurs escape.”

“I worry about my life,” the 38-year-old interpreter told the court Wednesday in English. His remark was then translated into Thai by a police interpreter. “I have been changing the place to live for four times now.”

Based on his description of the attack, the perpetrators appeared likely to be police of junta thugs. As later events show, however, they could have been Chinese thugs, working in Thailand. Immediately after that, Bakhodirov was arrested by police accused of drug possession. He claimed the police planted the drugs on him and promptly jumped bail and went on the run.

The military court then approved two translators, despite the defendants objecting to them. Why did they object? As SBS reports, “[t]he decision to use translators provided by the Chinese embassy is controversial because Uighurs have fled the region for years alleging they are the victims of state-sponsored persecution and assimilation policies that favour China’s ethnic Han majority.”

When the Chinese Embassy supplied interpreters got to work, one of them, Abdulwali Aiyai, repeatedly stumbled over quite simple words. Khaosod states:

Over the course of the two-hour session at the military tribunal, it emerged that Aiyai was also not familiar with words such as “wig,” “grey,” “arrest warrants,” or “police jurisdiction,”….

Aiyai has a “background as a reporter for Chinese state media…”. The defendants’ lawyers had predictably “filed a formal protest seeking the interpreter be removed on grounds of a conflict of interest.” That didn’t worry the military court. This despite the fact that it had rejected another translator, “requested by the defense team was turned down by the court because he belonged to a Germany-based advocacy group China said it deemed a terror organization.”

Yes, this is a Thai military court, not a Chinese court, although the distinction seems moot.

The Chinese Embassy-employed translators were only introduced to the defendants and their lawyers as the trial began. On the day, even one of the defendants could correct the work of the Chinese “translators.”

When the delay was announced by the court, one of the defense lawyers said:

the decision to suspend the trial four months was agreed to by the judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers and interpreters. They settled on the next date all parties would be available, he said.

“I did not have any problem. It can be whenever,” said Chamroen Panompakakorn. “But the military court and the prosecutors said they are busy during the year-end, as there are many cases concerning national security to be finished.”

The military courts have been inundated with cases ever since the junta began using them to prosecute civilians and dissidents on charges of sedition and insulting the royal family [lese majeste].

The “trial” could now extend well into 2018, with the defendants still in jail.

Murky? You bet. Even some of the comments of defense lawyers seem odd. If these reports are anything to go by, justice seems the least of the military court’s concerns. Higher concerns seem to be working with the Chinese, protecting the junta from bad publicity and protecting the investigators from having their evidence subjected to public scrutiny.





Chinese flunkies or anti-democratic sloths?

5 10 2016

Thai authorities have detained and will or have deported Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong.

Prachatai reports that Wong was detained “at the request of the Chinese government” in the “early hours on 5 October 2016…”.

wongThe report states that Wong “was invited to the faculty of political science, Chulakongkorn university, to give a talk on new generation’s politics at an event commemorating 6 October [1976]…”.

Wong’s “political group” is said to have issued “a statement condemning the Thai authorities.”

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post also reports on Wong’s detention. The 19-year-old, “famed for his galvanising role in the city’s 2014 pro-democracy ‘umbrella movement’, “had apparently been held incommunicado by authorities. His group in Hong Kong says they have been unable to contact him for at least 10 hours.

Activists in Bangkok stated that Tourist Police stated that the detention followed “a written letter from the Chinese government to the Thai government concerning this person.”

As the Post points out, this is not the first time that the military dictatorship has appeared to be acting as the Chinese regime’s toadies. Thailand deported more than 100 Uighurs to an uncertain fate in China just over a year ago. The disappearance of Chinese dissidents and their reappearance in China and in custody suggests Thai collaboration with agents of the Chinese state.

The military regime is certainly willing to do Beijing’s bidding. At the same time, the junta is so anti-democratic that the idea of a democracy activist arriving in Bangkok to commemorate the 1976 slaughter of civilians that was prompted by rightists, royalists, palace and military is not likely to be appreciated. It is likely that in doing Beijing’s bidding the military dictatorship is also serving its own warped interests.





Hypocrisy

13 05 2016

The following from Human Rights Watch in Geneva:

The Thai government’s pledges to the United Nations Human Rights Council to respect human rights and restore democratic rule have been mostly meaningless, Human Rights Watch said today. Thailand appeared before the council for its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva on May 11, 2016. The UPR is a UN examination of the human rights situation in each country.

On February 12, the Thai government submitted a report to the Human Rights Council, saying that it “attaches utmost importance to the promotion and protection of human rights of all groups of people.” However, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta has severely repressed fundamental rights with impunity, tightened military control, and blatantly disregarded its international human rights obligations.

“The Thai government’s responses to the UN review fail to show any real commitment to reversing its abusive rights practices or protecting fundamental freedoms,” said John Fisher, Geneva director. “While numerous countries raised concerns about the human rights situation in Thailand, the Thai delegation said nothing that would dispel their fears of a continuing crisis.”

The NCPO junta, led by Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, has engaged in increasingly repressive policies and practices since taking power in a May 2014 coup. Central to its rule is section 44 of the 2014 interim constitution, which provides the junta unlimited administrative, legislative, and judiciary powers, and explicitly prevents any oversight or legal accountability of junta actions.

Instead of paving the way for a return to democratic civilian rule as promised in its so-called “road map,” the junta has imposed a political structure that seems designed to prolong the military’s grip on power. A draft constitution, written by a junta-appointed committee, endorses unaccountable military involvement in governance even after a new government takes office.

The government has enforced media censorship, placed surveillance on the Internet and online communications, and aggressively restricted free expression. It has also increased repression against anyone openly critical of the junta’s policies or practices. For example, in April, military authorities detained Watana Muangsook, a former minister, for four days for posting Facebook comments opposing the draft constitution, for which a referendum is scheduled for August 7.

Since the military takeover, the government continues to prosecute those it accuses of being involved in anti-coup activities or supporting the deposed elected government. At least 46 people have been charged with sedition for criticizing military rule and violating the junta’s ban on public assembly. On April 28, eight people were arrested and charged with sedition and computer crimes for creating and posting satirical comments and memes mocking General Prayut on a Facebook parody page.

The government has made frequent use of Thailand’s draconian law against “insulting the monarchy.” The authorities have brought at least 59 lese majeste cases since the May 2014 coup, mostly for online commentary. On December 14, 2015, the junta brought lese majeste charges in military court against a man for spreading sarcastic Facebook images and comments that were deemed to be mocking the king’s pet dog. Military courts have imposed harsh sentences: in August 2015, Pongsak Sriboonpeng received 60 years in prison for his alleged lese majeste Facebook postings (later reduced to 30 years when he pleaded guilty), the longest recorded sentence for lese majeste in Thailand’s history.

Since the coup, the junta has summoned at least 1,340 activists, party supporters and human rights defenders for questioning and “adjusting” their political attitude. Failure to abide by an NCPO summons is a criminal offense subject to trial in military courts. Under junta orders, the military can secretly detain people without charge or trial and interrogate them without access to lawyers or safeguards against mistreatment. The government has summarily dismissed allegations that the military has tortured and ill-treated detainees but has provided no evidence to rebut these claims.

The government has increased its use of military courts, which lack independence and fail to comply with international fair trial standards, to try civilians – mostly targeting political dissidents and alleged lese majeste offenders. Since May 2014, at least 1,629 cases have been brought to military courts across Thailand.

Thailand’s security forces continue to commit serious human rights violations with impunity. No policy makers, commanders, or soldiers have been punished for unlawful killings or other wrongful use of force during the 2010 political confrontations, which left at least 90 dead and more than 2,000 injured. Nor have any security personnel been criminally prosecuted for serious rights abuses related to counterinsurgency operations in the southern Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala provinces, where separatist insurgents have also committed numerous abuses. The government has shown no interest in investigating more than 2,000 extrajudicial killings related to then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s “war on drugs” in 2003.

Thai authorities as well as private companies continue to use defamation lawsuits to retaliate against those who report human rights violations. The authorities have also brought trumped-up criminal charges against human rights lawyers to harass and retaliate against them. For example, on February 9, Bangkok police brought two charges against human rights lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri connected to her representation of pro-democracy activists in June 2015. There has been no progress in attempts to bring to justice perpetrators in the killing of land rights activist Chai Bunthonglek in February 2015, and three other activists affiliated with the Southern Peasants’ Federation of Thailand, who were shot dead in 2010 and 2012.

In November 2015, an international accrediting body recommended downgrading the status of Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission based on concerns about its ineffectiveness, lack of independence, and flawed processes for selecting commissioners.

Thailand signed the Convention against Enforced Disappearance in January 2012 but has not ratified the treaty. The penal code still does not recognize enforced disappearance as a criminal offense. Thai authorities have yet to satisfactorily resolve any of the 64 enforced disappearance cases reported by Human Rights Watch, including the disappearances of prominent Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit in March 2004 and ethnic Karen activist Por Cha Lee Rakchongcharoen, known as “Billy,” in April 2014.

Although Thailand is a party to the Convention against Torture, the government’s failure to enact an enabling law defining torture has been a serious impediment for enforcement of the convention. There is still no specific law in Thailand that provides for compensation in cases of torture.

Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Thai authorities treat asylum seekers as illegal migrants subject to arrest and deportation without a fair process to make their claim. The Thai government has forcibly returned refugees and asylum seekers to countries where they are likely to face persecution, in violation of international law and over protests from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and several foreign governments. These include the deportation of two Chinese activists to China in November 2015 and 109 ethnic Uighurs to China in July 2015.

Thai authorities have regularly prevented boats carrying ethnic Rohingya from Burma from landing, providing rudimentary assistance and supplies and returning them to dangerous seas. In May 2015, raids on a string of camps along the Thailand-Malaysia border found Rohingya had been held in pens and cages, abused, and in some cases killed by traffickers operating with the complicity of local and national officials. Thailand hosted an international meeting to address the thousands of Rohingya stranded at sea. However, unlike Malaysia and Indonesia, Thailand refuses to work with UNHCR to conduct refugee status determination screenings for the Rohingya, and instead holds many in indefinite immigration detention.

The Thai government has stepped up anti-human trafficking measures. However, migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos remain vulnerable to abuses by traffickers facilitating travel into Thailand, and employers who seize workers documents and hold workers in debt bondage. New temporary ID cards issued by the Thai government to migrants severely restrict their right to movement, making them vulnerable to police extortion. Trafficking of migrants into sex work, bonded labor, or onto Thai fishing boats for months or years remains a pressing concern.

“No one should be fooled by the Thai government’s empty human rights promises,” Fisher said. “UN member countries should firmly press Thailand to accept their recommendations to end the dangerous downward spiral on rights by ending repression, respecting fundamental freedoms, and returning the country to democratic civilian rule.”





No Human Rights to Watch

28 01 2016

Thailand’s human rights are not just trampled upon by the military and their boots, but are simply outside the mindset of the military junta and its leaders. They do not neglect or infringe on human rights but do not comprehend the idea of human rights. Every action by this censorious and thuggish regime speak to their incapacity to comprehend notions of universal rights such as freedom of expression. The military in Thailand maintains torture, enforced disappearance and murder with impunity. So hierarchical is the military and so inhabited by persons trained to toady before their bosses and betters that any notion of human rights is alien.

Human Rights Watch has just released its annual report, which includes a country chapter on Thailand. Nothing unexpected at all in the dismal report on Thailand under the military dictatorship. HRW’s press release is reproduced below:

Thailand’s military junta tightened its grip on power and severely repressed fundamental rights in the past year, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2016. Public pledges by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to respect human rights and return the country to elected civilian rule went unfulfilled.

Human Rights WatchIn the 659-page World Report 2016, its 26th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that the spread of terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East and the huge flows of refugees spawned by repression and conflict led many governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security. At the same time, authoritarian governments throughout the world, fearful of peaceful dissent that is often magnified by social media, embarked on the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times.

“Under military rule, Thailand’s human rights crisis has gone from bad to worse, and there seems to be no end in sight,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The junta is jailing and prosecuting dissenters, barring public protests, censoring the media, and restricting critical political speech.”

The NCPO, led by Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, has committed human rights violations with total impunity since the May 2014 coup, disregarding concerns raised by the United Nations, human rights groups, and many foreign governments. On March 31, 2015, nationwide enforcement of the Martial Law Act of 1914 was replaced with section 44 of the interim constitution, which absolves those acting on behalf of the NCPO of all legal liability. In November 2015, the junta proposed that a new constitution being drafted should guarantee blanket amnesty for the use of military force to “protect national security.”

The date promised by the NCPO to hold elections to return to civilian rule continued to slide, making the timing wholly uncertain. Meanwhile, the junta continued to ban political activity and peaceful public gatherings, carried out hundreds of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and disregarded serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees in military custody. At least 27 people were charged with sedition for criticizing military rule and violating the junta’s ban on public assembly. During the year, the NCPO increased its use of military courts, which lack independence and fail to comply with international fair trial standards, to try civilians, mostly political dissidents and alleged offenders of the lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) laws.

The junta forced the cancellation of at least 60 events, seminars, and academic panels on the political situation and human rights in 2015, including a report launch by Human Rights Watch, because it deemed the events a threat to stability and national security.

The junta made frequent use of Thailand’s draconian laws against criticizing the monarchy. At least 56 lese majeste cases have been brought since the coup, mostly for online commentary. Military courts have imposed harsh sentences. In August, the Bangkok Military Court sentenced Pongsak Sriboonpeng to 60 years in prison for his alleged lese majeste Facebook postings (later reduced to 30 years when he pleaded guilty). It was the longest recorded sentence for lese majeste in Thailand’s history.

Prayut has frequently stated that soldiers should not be condemned for any loss of life they caused during the 2010 political confrontations in Bangkok. To date, not a single member of the Thai security forces has been criminally prosecuted for serious rights abuses related to counterinsurgency operations in Thailand’s southern Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala provinces.

The government defied pleas from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and several foreign governments and violated the international prohibition against forcible return (refoulement) of refugees and asylum seekers to countries where they faced likely persecution. The most egregious instances included the deportation of two Chinese activists to China in November, and the deportation of 109 ethnic Uighurs to China in July.

“Respect for human rights in Thailand is going down the drain,” Adams said. “The international community urgently needs to press the junta to reverse course, end repression, respect fundamental rights, and fulfill its pledges to return to democratic civilian rule.”





The military regime as Chinese checkers

24 01 2016

Chinese checkers is said to have been developed in Germany, but whatever its origin, it has some striking characteristics that will suggest why the analogy with Thailand’s military dictatorship and the practices and policies it might want to designate as a “foreign policy.”

We say this noting that Wikipedia states that “[l]ike other skill-based games, Chinese checkers involves strategy.” Strategy, perhaps, but as the “rules are simple, so even young children can play.” That seems to sum up the military junta’s approach to foreign policy.

There’s been quite a bit of commentary since the 2014 military coup noting that the junta prefers authoritarian China to the scolding it occasionally gets from long-time ally, the United States, for failing to go the way of previous military juntas and hand over to some kind of civilianized but still authoritarian regime.

The junta’s China pirouette is based on such simplistic views of “friends” and “enemies” and notions that the Chinese well understand, of “face.” Indeed, these motivations are seen in its domestic politics as well.

But as Khaosod reports, the China pirouette is costly. Not just in terms of the necessity of doling out infrastructure projects to a “friend,” but in terms of human lives and any residual notions of freedoms or rights in Thailand.

This Khaosod report is about Chinese journalist Li Xin, who fled China last year, and has been seeking asylum. It is unclear whether he took “secrets” from China or is a state informer who has had second thoughts. Whatever is the case, his wife believes he was abducted by agents of the Chinese state and will be returned to China, if he isn’t there already.

As Khaosod points out, this “journalist’s vanishing is the latest in a string of disappearances of China-related activists in Southeast Asia that have raised suspicions of Chinese government involvement.”

The first case in Thailand, in a string of disappearances and state deportations, is the disappearance from Pattaya of Hong Kong publisher and Swedish national Gui Minhai. The Guardian describes him as a “successful Hong Kong publisher,” and says that “Gui is one of four members of Sage Communications — famed for sensational tomes on the private lives of China’s elite — to go missing.” He finally turned up in China, appearing on Chinese state TV, improbably declaring that the eggs in the fridge, half-done DIY project, boxes of medication, divided into daily doses, still in his apartment, and CCTV footage of the men suspected of kidnapping Gui, he says “he returned to China to turn himself in for an old crime.” A bit like lese majeste suspects in Thailand, Gui has since appeared on state television admitting guilt.

Yet this is just the latest case. Readers will recall the bombing in Bangkok last August (here and here). One of the very first guesses of responsibility involved Uighurs, with police being asked if “the attack could have been in retaliation for Thailand’s recent decision to send some Uighur illegal migrants [sic.] back to China…”. Of course, for a considerable time the police and the military junta denied this. In the end, though, at least based on the occasional court appearances of those charged, this is very likely what the bombing was about.

In July 2015, 109 Uighers were forcibly repatriated to China in what the junta described as a joint Bangkok and Beijing operation “to solve the Uighur Muslim problem” while declaring that China would “look after their safety.” The deportation, which saw the deportees guarded and with bags on their heads, resulted in demonstrations in Turkey.

In November 2015, Thailand deported Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping, two well-known dissidents, who “were arrested by Thai authorities on 28 October for not having valid visas.” What made this case more egregious was that the UNHCR said it was “deeply concerned over the refoulement of two recognised refugees from Thailand,” and said the two “had been approved to be resettled outside Thailand and China and were due to depart days after the unannounced deportation…”.

While such actions fly in the face of international law and reflect poorly on both China and Thailand, the links between the two authoritarian governments, operating in concert and using similar methods of extra-legal detention and more. The Thai junta seems more than willing to engage with China in these matters and, indeed, to learn the simple strategies of “foreign policy” constructed to reward friends.





Still confused and still accusing

29 09 2015

In case you missed it, businessman and Police boss General Somyos Pumpanmuang is retiring today. It is no surprise, then, that he claims to have solved the Bangkok bombing before he steps aside.

The Nation reports that Somyos has got the “guilty” men and has been passing out the money to the police involved.In the money

In a ceremony of claimed victories, Somyos was confusing. Most confusingly, after a confused and unprofessional investigation, claims and ridiculous counter-claims from the police, from Malaysia and in the media, Somyos fired a passing shot at red shirts.

Yes, Somyos reckoned there were “possible retaliation by [Uighur-related] human smugglers at the government for cracking down on them…”. Despite this, Somyos decided to go back to day 1 of the investigation and claim “political motives.”

Somyos claims that “[o]ne of the Thai suspects was involved in the ‘political bombings’ during the unrest in 2010 and last year…”.

On the first day of the “investigations,” police pointed at red shirts. In his retirement shindig, Somyos stated: “Investigators believe that there are people who hired the perpetrators. Different groups of people were involved and they shared the same objective and desire…. We can’t rule out political motives…”.

Somyos continued to claim that the “two arrested foreign suspects” were “no longer [able to] deny their involvement and had to admit that they were involved…”. He had to add that “[p]olice did not coerce them…”.

These men have not been able to meet lawyers and, conveniently, the police have moved the case from civilian to military court. That alone should give pause for thinking the top cop might be fudging (again).

Not surprisingly, it was without lawyers, without proper identity being established and with competing claims being made, that Somyos again came up with the local link to politics.

Somyos also “presented Bt3 million to his deputy and designated successor, Pol General Jakthip Chaijinda, to reward the police and military officers involved in the arrest of the prime suspects.” We thought he’d done that almost a month ago.

We find it difficult to believe much at all from this corrupt police general but we bet he rakes in even more loot after retiring.





HRW on Prayuth at the UN

23 09 2015

Human Rights Watch has released a call for General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the self-appointed prime minister of Thailand, known to PPT readers as The Dictator, to be held accountable.

We agree. He should be held accountable for his illegal act of throwing out an elected government, for his human rights abuses, for the murder of red shirt protesters, for jailing political opponents and for his callous use of Article 44 and the draconian lese majeste law.

We disagree with HRW that he should be urged to “quickly restore democratic civilian rule…”. Even if he does this, it would be a sham restoration. The military dictatorship is creating law and circumstances that mean that civilian rule will change little. Rather, the Thai people need to reject military rule, throw out the dictators and establish their own constitutional rule.

Here’s the HRW statement:

World leaders gathered for the United Nations General Assembly should urge Thailand’s prime minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, to end repression of human rights and quickly restore democratic civilian rule, Human Rights Watch said today.

General Prayut, who led a coup in May 2014, is scheduled to speak at the UN General Assembly in New York on September 29, 2015. The theme for this year’s General Assembly is “The United Nations at 70: the road ahead for peace, security, and human rights.”

“Thailand’s junta leader should get the welcome he deserves at the UN, which is an earful about the junta’s abysmal human rights record,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The leaders attending the General Assembly should use their meetings with General Prayut to urge an end to the junta’s wave of repression and restore democratic civilian rule.”

Thailand is campaigning for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in an election that will be held in October 2016. While Thailand has promised collaboration with the UN, the junta has frequently raised what it termed Thailand’s “unique conditions” to deflect criticism of its human rights violations. Its “roadmap” for a return to democratic rule has repeatedly been pushed back.

The General Assembly presents an important opportunity for concerned governments and UN officials to urge Prayut to act immediately on a broad range of human rights concerns, including the military’s sweeping and unchecked powers. Section 44 of the interim constitution of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) grants broad authority to the junta to carry out policies and actions without any effective oversight or accountability for human rights abuses.

World leaders should not tread lightly in broaching Thailand’s rights violations with General Prayut. By being forthright in raising concerns, concerned governments can help reverse the human rights crisis in Thailand and put the country on the path toward civilian democratic rule.

For instance, on September 10, Prayut told the media that he would not tolerate criticism of his administration: “No one can oppose me. If they still don’t learn that, they will be detained again and again.… I might tape their mouths shut too.” Three days later, a well-known journalist, Pravit Rojanaphruk, was summoned and then held for several days in incommunicado military detention for criticizing the junta leader.

The NCPO has severely suppressed fundamental rights and freedoms. More than 200 websites about the political and human rights situation in Thailand have been blocked for having content the junta considers threatening to national security. The junta has banned public gatherings of more than five people and prohibits most political activities. Protesters who have peacefully expressed disagreement with the junta have been arrested and sent to military courts, where some of them could face up to seven years in prison on sedition charges.

The junta has made frequent use of Thailand’s laws against criticizing the monarchy. Since the coup, 53 lese majeste cases have been brought against suspects – 40 of whom allegedly posted or shared comments online. Military courts have imposed especially harsh sentences, such as the 60-year sentence (later reduced to 30 years) for Pongsak Sriboonpeng for six Facebook postings.

Since May 2014, the NCPO has summoned at least 751 people to report to the military authority. Most were politicians, activists, and journalists accused by the junta of criticizing or opposing military rule. Under section 44 of the interim constitution, the military can secretly detain people without charge or trial for up to seven days. Military personnel interrogate detainees in military facilities without providing access to their lawyers or ensuring other safeguards against mistreatment. The junta has refused to provide information about people in secret military detention, increasing the risk of enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill treatment. There has been no official inquiry into allegations of torture and mistreatment in military custody.

Since the coup, Thai authorities have continued to violate the rights of asylum seekers and refugees under customary international law not to be returned to a country where they face repression. On July 9, the Thai government forcibly repatriated 109 ethnic Uighurs to China. Thai authorities have attempted to seal off the border to prevent boats carrying ethnic Rohingya fleeing abuses, persecution, and hardship in Burma and Bangladesh from landing. Thai authorities have frequently intercepted these boats and pushed them back to the sea after providing rudimentary aid and supplies.

“World leaders should not tread lightly in broaching Thailand’s rights violations with General Prayut,” Adams said. “By being forthright in raising concerns, concerned governments can help reverse the human rights crisis in Thailand and put the country on the path toward civilian democratic rule.”