ALRC, lese majeste and the UN

26 02 2014

Reproduced in full:

ALRC-CWS-25-07-2014
February 24, 2014

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Twenty fifth session, Agenda Item 3, General Debate

A written submission to the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

THAILAND: Legal and Extralegal Threats to Freedom of Expression

1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to raise grave concerns about the intensification of legal and extralegal threats to freedom of expression in Thailand. Carried out in the name of protecting the monarchy, this range of threats constitutes the entrenchment of the normalization of the violation of human rights and curtailment of freedom of expression. This statement is the eighth on this topic that the ALRC has submitted to the Council since May 2011. During the seventeenth session of the Council in May 2011, the ALRC highlighted the rise in the legal and unofficial use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA) to constrict freedom of expression and intimidate citizens critical of the monarchy (A/HRC/17/NGO/27). During the nineteenth session in February 2012, the ALRC detailed some of the threats faced both by those who have expressed critical views of the monarchy, both legal and extralegal, as well as those who have expressed concern about these threats (A/HRC/19/NGO/55). During the twentieth session in June 2012, the ALRC raised concerns about the weak evidentiary basis of convictions made under Article 112 and the CCA (A/HRC/20/NGO/37) and the concerning conditions surrounding the death in prison custody of Amphon Tangnoppakul on 8 May 2012, then serving a 20-year sentence for four alleged violations of Article 112 and the CCA (A/HRC/20/NGO/38). During the twenty-second session in March 2013, the ALRC highlighted the January 2013 conviction under Article 112 of human rights defender and labour rights activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (A/HRC/22/NGO/44). During the twenty-third session in June 2013, the ALRC emphasized the regularization of the crisis of freedom of expression, and noted that constriction of speech had become constitutive of political and social life in Thailand (A/HRC/23/NGO/42). During the twenty-fourth session in October 2013, the ALRC emphasized the dangers of the normalization of the violation of human rights in the name of protecting the monarchy (A/HRC/24/NGO/35).

2. Over the course of the prior seven statements, the ALRC first noted with surprise the active use of measures to constrict speech, then tracked the expansion of this use, and finally, the entrenchment of the foreclosure of freedom of speech. The ALRC is again raising the issue of freedom of expression with the Council because the law has continued to be actively used to violate the right to freedom of expression and extralegal threats to freedom of expression, and human rights broadly, have emerged in Thailand. In the statement submitted to the Council in October 2013, the ALRC warned that the routine denial of bail and the use of vague references to national security to attempt to legitimize the violation of the human rights of those with dissident views had become normalized. In this statement, the ALRC wishes to alert the Human Rights Council to ongoing developments that indicate the urgency, and growing difficulty, of addressing the crisis of freedom of expression in Thailand.

3. There are two primary laws that are used to both legally constrict freedom of speech in Thailand and create a broad climate of fear for those who hold dissenting opinions. Article 112 of the Criminal Code criminalizes criticism of the monarchy and mandates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA), which was promulgated as part of Thailand’s compliance as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, has been used to target web editors and websites identified as critical of the monarchy or dissident in other ways. The CCA provides for penalties of up to five years per count in cases that are judged to have involved the dissemination or hosting of information deemed threatening to national security, of which the institution of the monarchy is identified as a key part. While Article 112 has been part of the Criminal Code since the last major revision in 1957, available statistics suggest that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup; how often these complaints become formal charges and lead to prosecutions is information that the Government of Thailand has continuously failed to provide up to the present. The CCA has often been used in combination with Article 112 in the seven years since its promulgation; similar to the use of Article 112, the Government of Thailand has not made complete usage information available. This failure to make information public about the frequency and conditions of use of both laws creates fear and diminishes the space for freedom of expression through the use of secrecy and creation of uncertainty.

4. In addition to the continued use of the law to constrict speech, recent events indicate that there is an increase in the potential for extralegal violence against those who hold dissident views. During the statement submitted to the nineteenth session (A/HRC/19/NGO/55) in March 2012, the ALRC warned the Council about the threats made against members of the Khana Nitirat, a group of progressive legal academics at Thammasat University who proposed reform of Article 112. In response, hundreds of threats were posted online against the group, calling for the members to be attacked, killed, beheaded, and burned alive. Subsequently, one of the members of the group, Professor Worachet Pakeerut, was assaulted outside his office at Thammasat by two young men who later told the police that they attacked him because they disagreed with his ideas.

5. On February 12, 2014, an attack on another progressive academic, Professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a history professor at Thammasat University and outspoken political and cultural critic, indicates a renewed increase in the permissive climate for extralegal intimidation and violence of those who hold dissenting opinions. Two assailants fired repeated gunshots at the home and car of Professor Somsak. Although he did not sustain any physical injuries, the damage to his car and house indicate that the violence was intended to be deadly. The attack took place during the day, while Professor Somsak was at home, which lends further credence to the idea that the perpetrators intended to inflict harm or death and that they were unconcerned with being seen.

6. Professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s writing and teaching have inspired many students and citizens to carefully examine the past, present, and persecution of the powerless by the powerful in Thailand. His criticism often makes those in power uncomfortable, and there has been an attempt to use Article 112 to curtail his speech. In April 2011, a police investigation began against him in relation to a complaint likely made in relation to comments he made in article about a Princess Chulabhorn’s (one of the daughters of the current Thai king) appearance on a talk show. This case is still ongoing, even though Article 112 does not apply to Princess Chulabhorn, and so there is no legal restriction of comments made about her. In early February 2014, the deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Army commented that the Army plans to file additional complaints of violations of Article 112 against Professor Somsak in relation to comments he posted on the social media website Facebook.

7. The ALRC is particularly concerned that the violent attack on Professor Somsak has come so close following the comments of the deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Army regarding further proceedings under Article 112 against him. While the identities and motivations of the attackers remain unknown pending police investigation, the temporal link to the formal and legal action taken against him by the Royal Thai Army is striking. In addition, given the severe polarization in Thai society which began when the protracted protests against the elected government began in November 2013, this extralegal attack on Professor Somsak is a further indication of the ongoing breakdown of the rule of law in Thailand.

8. The ALRC would like to remind the Thai government that they are a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and are bound to uphold the human rights principles named therein. In particular, the ALRC would like to call on the Thai state to uphold Article 19 of the ICCPR, in particular, paragraph 1, which guarantees that, “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference,” and paragraph 2, which guarantees that, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” It is imperative that the Thai state’s protection of the rights guaranteed in Article 19 and the remainder of the ICCPR be active, rather than passive. Upholding the ICCPR necessarily entails protecting those whose views are dissident and ensuring that they can safely exercise their political freedom. Failure to do so will signal to vigilante actors that attacking those who hold different views are acceptable within the Thai polity.

9. The ALRC would also like to remind the Government of Thailand that under Article 19 of the ICCPR, restrictions on the right to freedom of expression are only permissible under two circumstances: “for respect of the rights or reputations of others” and “for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” Although Article 112 is classified as a crime against national security within the Criminal Code of Thailand, and this, along with the need to protect the monarchy, is frequently cited by the Government of Thailand when faced with the criticism that the measure is in tension with the ICCPR, a precise explanation of the logic for categorizing the measure as such has not been provided to date. Until this explanation is provided, the constriction of freedom of expression is arbitrary and contributes to a climate hostile to human rights.

10. The ALRC is gravely concerned about the ongoing legal and extralegal threats to freedom of expression in Thailand, and their effects on human rights, justice, and the rule of law in Thailand. The intensification of extralegal threats to dissenting citizens’ rights and lives as indicated by the February 2014 attack on Professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul represents a new point of crisis in the longstanding climate of constriction of political freedom in Thailand.

11. In view of the above, the Asian Legal Resource Center calls on the UN Human Rights Council to:

a. Call on the Government of Thailand to ensure that a full investigation into the attack on Professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul is carried out and bring the men who shot at his house and car to justice;
b. Call on the Government of Thailand to release all those convicted or facing charges under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. At a minimum, those currently being held should immediately be granted bail while their cases are in the Criminal or Appeal Courts;
c. Demand that the Government of Thailand revoke Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act;
d. Urge the Government of Thailand to allow and support the full exercise of freedom of expression and political freedom, consistent with the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which it is a signatory, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a state party, and;
e. Request the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression to continue ongoing monitoring and research about the broad situation of constriction of rights and individual cases in Thailand; and, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to continue to monitor and report on those cases of persons arbitrarily detained under Article 112.

About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

Read this online from AHRC

25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council – AHRC

Read this online from ALRC

25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council – ALRC





Lese majeste aired in Geneva

12 09 2013

There are two reports regarding Thailand’s lese majeste law and the meeting of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council that deserve attention.

The first is from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and details growing concerns raised at the HRC about Southeast Asian governments and:

… the use of national security, anti-terrorist and defamation laws to limit freedom of expression on the Internet, a coalition of international and local NGOs and activists from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia urged governments to stop using vague legislation based on ill-defined concepts such as “national security”, “sovereignty” or “lèse-majesté” to intimidate, harass and imprison independent voices. Speaking at an event in Geneva, which coincides with the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council, FIDH, IFEX, Article 19 and PEN International united to call for the urgent revision of these laws to bring them into line with international human rights standards.

Independent and dissenting voices, including bloggers and netizens, journalists, activists and human rights defenders, have increasingly been subjected to repression in Southeast Asia.Polit prisoners

On Thailand, the report states:

The Thai authorities have mostly been using the lèse-majesté law (Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which punishes any word or deed which “defames, insults or threatens the King [...]”) and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act to lock up journalists and critics. The most notorious case is that of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for authorizing the publication, as editor, of two articles that were considered insulting to the royal family. Ironically, Somyot was arrested just a few days after launching an online petition calling for a review of Article 112. “In its commitment to cooperate with the UN, Thailand needs to go beyond words, immediately release Somyot and protect the right to freedom of expression of all citizens”, said Somyot’s wife, Sukanya.

The second is related and is from the Clean Clothes Campaign. This group has joined with the Free Somyot Campaign and the Thai Labour Campaign, and adds more pressure regarding Somyos, with his wife in Geneva and campaigning for bail for her husband. The report states:

Somyot is a prisoner of conscience…. The verdict [against him] undermines the right to freedom of expression and press freedom. It is a violation of international human rights law, in particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified. In August 2012, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Somyot’s detention to be in violation of international human rights law. The EU and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have also issued strong statements against the verdict.

Despite the efforts both by his family and the ongoing international campaigns which call for Somyot’ release, Somyot’s 15th bail application has been denied.

Sukunya says:

“If Thailand is to be in compliance with its binding international legal obligations to respect and protect basic rights, this unjust verdict against Somyot should be promptly overturned on appeal. Additionally, while the appeal is being considered, his constitutional right to provisional release should be upheld so that he could reunite with me, his family. This will also better his medical conditions and at home he can adequately prepare for his defense. Every political prisoner is one too many.

The Clean Clothes Campaign called on Thailand to:

free Somyot and all other persons detained on politically-motivated charges and end all forms of harassment against them to ensure that no one would be criminalised for peacefully exercising their fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression.





The Normalization of the Violation of Human Rights in the Name of Protecting the Monarchy

1 09 2013

As usual, the Asian Legal Resource Centre gets it right and PPT can do no better than post their statement. Our only question is the number of known cases in jail (convicted or awaiting trial). Our count is six. In addition, we do not know what has happened in the case of Thitinant Kaewchantanont, who was held in a mental hospital. Nor do we know how many cases there are that remain secret or unreported:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 30, 2013
ALRC-CWS-24-02-2013

Language(s): English only

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

Twenty-fourth session, Agenda Item 3, General Debate

A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status

THAILAND: The Normalization of the Violation of Human Rights in the Name of Protecting the Monarchy

1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to raise concerns about the normalization of the violation of human rights in the name of protecting the monarchy in Thailand with the Human Rights Council. This statement is the seventh on this topic that the ALRC has submitted to the Council since May 2011. During the seventeenth session of the Council in May 2011, the ALRC highlighted the rise in the legal and unofficial use of Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA) to constrict freedom of expression and intimidate citizens critical of the monarchy (A/HRC/17/NGO/27). During the nineteenth session in February 2012, the ALRC detailed some of the threats faced both by those who have expressed critical views of the monarchy, both legal and extralegal, as well as those who have expressed concern about these threats (A/HRC/19/NGO/55). During the twentieth session in June 2012, the ALRC raised concerns about the weak evidentiary basis of convictions made under Article 112 and the CCA (A/HRC/20/NGO/37) and the concerning conditions surrounding the death in prison custody of Amphon Tangnoppakul on 8 May 2012, then serving a 20-year sentence for four alleged violations of Article 112 and the CCA (A/HRC/20/NGO/38). During the twenty-second session in March 2013, the ALRC highlighted the January 2013 conviction under Article 112 of human rights defender and labour rights activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (A/HRC/22/NGO/44). During the twenty-third session in June 2013, the ALRC emphasized the regularization of the crisis of freedom of expression in Thailand, and noted that constriction of speech had become constitutive of political and social life in Thailand (A/HRC/23/NGO/42).

2. Over the course of the prior six statements, the ALRC first noted with surprise the active use of measures to constrict speech, then tracked the expansion of this use, and finally, the entrenchment of the foreclosure of freedom of speech. The ALRC is again raising the issue of freedom of expression with the Council in order to ensure that the regularization of this threat to human rights does not lead to it being normalized or forgotten. In the statement submitted to the Council in June 2013, the ALRC cautioned that current conditions threatened to normalize the routine denial of bail to individuals awaiting trial and appeal, the provision of substandard medical care in prisons, and the use of secrecy to restrict the openness of trials and public information about ongoing cases. In this statement, the ALRC wishes to alert the Human Rights Council to ongoing developments that lend weight to these concerns and underscore the urgency of addressing the crisis of freedom of expression in Thailand.

3. Article 112 criminalizes criticism of the monarchy and mandates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The 2007 CCA, which was promulgated as part of Thailand’s compliance as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, has been used to target web editors and websites identified as critical of the monarchy or dissident in other ways. The CCA provides for penalties of up to five years per count in cases which are judged to have involved the dissemination or hosting of information deemed threatening to national security, of which the institution of the monarchy is identified as a key part. While Article 112 has been part of the Criminal Code since the last major revision in 1957, available statistics suggest that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of complaints filed since the 19 September 2006 coup; how often these complaints become formal charges and lead to prosecutions is information that the Government of Thailand has continuously failed to provide up to the present. The CCA has often been used in combination with Article 112 in the four years since its promulgation; similar to the use of Article 112, complete usage information has not been made available by the Government of Thailand. This failure to provide information creates fear and diminishes the space for freedom of expression through the use of secrecy and creation of uncertainty.

4. At present, there are 4 persons known to be serving prison terms for alleged violations of Article 112 and/or the CCA and 1 person behind bars while undergoing trial.

a. Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul was convicted of violations of Article 112 related to 55 minutes of speech and sentenced to 18 years in prison on 28 August 2009. Following examination of her case by the Constitutional Court, her sentenced was reduced to 15 years in December 2011. The Appeal Court upheld her conviction and sentence in May 2013.

b. Surachai Sae Dan (Danwattananusorn) was convicted of a series of violations of Article 112 related to political speeches he made and sentenced to a total of 12.5 years in prison in a series of cases in 2012. He has submitted a request for a royal pardon and is awaiting the outcome.

c. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was convicted of violations of Article 112 related to his work in editing and publishing Voice of Taksin magazine, which was deemed to include two anti-monarchy articles (written by someone else) and sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison on 23 January 2013 (10 years on Article 112-related charges and 1 year related to a prior case). He has submitted an appeal to the Appeal Court and is currently awaiting a decision.

d. Ekachai Hongkangwan was convicted of violations of Article 112 related to selling VCDs of an ABC Australia documentary and copies of WikiLeaks material and sentenced to 3 years and 4 months in prison on 28 March 2013. He has submitted an appeal to the Appeal Court and is currently awaiting a decision.

e. Yutthapoom (last name withheld) has been held in the Bangkok Remand Prison since 19 September 2012 on charges of violating Article 112 following a complaint submitted by his older brother related to a conversation they had while watching television at home. The witness hearings in his case began on 20 August 2013, after he endured 333 days of pre-trial detention.

6. Common to these 5 cases is that the individuals involved have repeatedly been denied bail, always on the grounds that their crimes are too grave a threat to national security to permit even temporary release, despite full cooperation of all parties in investigation and prosecution. Although some individuals were granted bail while awaiting trial, upon conviction they were all denied bail, despite ongoing processes of appeal. This is in contravention to Article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party, which specifies: “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.”

7. To raise one notable example of the denial of bail, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (5c above), submitted his 15th request for bail on 24 July 2013. Along with the application, approximately 152,000 USD of property deeds were submitted as security with the request. On 26 July 2013, the Appeal Court denied the request. The justification offered was that as Somyot had been sentenced to a prison term greater than 10 years, if he was released, there was a danger that he might flee. The Appeal Court further noted that, “The actions of the defendant impacted public order and the feelings of the people,” and so his release on bail was not warranted.

8. Bail is routinely granted during trials and after conviction while awaiting appeal in cases of committing violent crimes in Thailand, but routinely denied for cases involving freedom of speech. To offer one example, on 30 July 2012, in Black Case No. 3252/2552, 3466/2552, the Criminal Court found five police officers guilty of brutally murdering Kiettisak Thitboonkrong, age 17, in 2004 as part of the so-called “War on Drugs,” in which close to 3000 people were extrajudicially killed across Thailand. Three of the police offers were found guilty of premeditated murder and hiding a corpse and sentenced to death. One police officer was found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. One police officer was found guilty of abusing his authority to aid in protecting his subordinates from criminal prosecution and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. All five police officers were granted bail while they appeal their conviction. In all but one of these instances, the police were sentenced to longer prison terms than Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, yet they were granted bail. Given the explanation by the Appeal Court when they denied Somyot’s request that the length of his sentence meant that he might flee and that his crime impacted public order, granting the police officers bail seems strange. In the absence of an explanation from the Court, this collection of actions suggests that constricting dissident speech and protecting the monarchy are more important to the Thai state than ensuring accountability for extrajudicial violence committed against citizens by state actors.

9. The ALRC is gravely concerned about the effects of the ongoing entrenchment of the constriction of freedom of expression on human rights, justice, and the rule of law in Thailand. The frequency of the exercise of the draconian Article 112 and CCA risks the naturalization and normalization of violations of rights and the constriction of speech and political freedom. The ALRC would like to remind the Government of Thailand that under Article 19 of the ICCPR, restrictions on the right to freedom of expression are only permissible under two circumstances: “for respect of the rights or reputations of others” and “for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.” While measure 112 is classified as a crime against national security within the Criminal Code of Thailand, and this, along with the need to protect the monarchy, is frequently cited by the Government of Thailand when faced with the criticism that the measure is in tension with the ICCPR, a precise explanation of the logic for categorizing the measure as such has not been provided to date. Until this explanation is provided, the constriction of freedom of expression is arbitrary.

10. In view of the above, the Asian Legal Resource Center calls on the UN Human Rights Council to:

  1. Call on the Government of Thailand to release all those convicted or facing charges under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. At a minimum, those currently being held should immediately be granted bail while their cases are in the Criminal or Appeal Courts.
  2. Demand that the Government of Thailand revoke Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.
  3. Urge the Government of Thailand to allow and support the full exercise of freedom of expression and political freedom, consistent with the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which it is a signatory, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a state party.
  4. Request the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression to continue ongoing monitoring and research about the brought situation of constriction of rights and individual cases in Thailand; and, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to continue to monitor and report on those cases of persons arbitrarily detained under Article 112.

# # #

About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

Read this online from AHRC

24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council – AHRC

Read this online from ALRC

24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council – ALRC

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The line in the sand on human rights

26 05 2013

There’s an interesting and revealing report at the Bangkok Post. Interesting and significant for the admissions made and revealing of the admission on the limits of human rights. The report draws on a U.N. Human Rights Council report (clicking downloads a large PDF) and the associated Thai government response.

The UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression report is here. (PPT will spend some time on this document over the next few days as it includes information on nearly 60 lese majeste/computer crimes cases, including cases against 11 foreign nationals.)

The Thai government’s response is here.

The admissions made:

Thailand has conceded to issues raised by a UN special rapporteur as alleged malpractice regarding freedom of expression and migrant labour, and to the fatal harassment of human rights defenders.

The admission is in a document included in 108 pages of communications involving special rapporteurs of the United Nations recently made available ahead of the 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council.

This admission appears to PPT to be a significant advance as an admission could, with the right political will, lead to some policy changes.

The limits:

On page 24, there is a short reply dated Dec 26, 2012 from the Thai government to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue to questions about cases in Thailand.

Thailand replied that the 2007 Constitution of Thailand contains the clause: The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated.

No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action, the official reply from Thailand said.

It is the reply that sets out the “reasons” for limiting freedom of speech related to the monarchy that draws a line in the sand.

While admitting that Article 112 was:

largely applied in a manner and with a frequency which raises some concerns. The severity of the punishments received, the absence of exemptions on constitutional or legal grounds, and the force it exerts over the judicial system adds to the chilling effect on free speech…,

the state defends all of this in the name of protecting a”special” monarchy. It is done with a quasi-religious zeal and rhetoric.

PPT plans more posts on these related reports.





ALRC on state impunity

29 08 2012

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization with general consultative status at the U.N. Human Rights Council has prepared a written statement for the Council’s 21st session that addresses issues of state impunity and  extrajudicial killings. It is long and should be read in full here. Some excerpts follow:

The ALRC urges the Government of Thailand to amend the Criminal Code to account for the crime of disappearance, and, more importantly, to foster a culture within which the state security forces actively work against, rather than encourage, the casual use of extrajudicial violence.

On 25 October 2004, 85 people died during and following protests in Tak Bai district of Narathiwat province…. Under Thai law, when there is a death in custody, a postmortem inquest must be conducted. In May 2009, the inquest ruling noted that, “The causes and circumstances related to the deaths were that they died of suffocation while in custody of officials who were deemed to have performed their duties according to their assigned responsibilities.” In other words, the court recognized that the protestors died while under the protection of state officials, but classified this not as murder but as “duty”. Families of the victims filed a court case arguing that this recourse to “duty” was unconstitutional; both the Criminal Court and the Court of Appeals have refused to accept this case. The recourse to “duty” is far too frequently echoed in postmortem inquest rulings involving deaths in custody in Thailand and the refusal of the courts to accept the case of the families of the victims powerfully illustrates how entrenched and unquestionable this idea is within the security and judicial apparatus.

The ALRC urges the courts to accept this case for review, and calls on the Government of Thailand to carefully examine the practices and policies extant inside the security forces to ensure that “duty” does not stand as justification for inhumane treatment, torture, or murder.

During the clashes and the subsequent government crackdown on the protests by the red-shirted members of the United Democratic Front Against Dictatorship (UDD) in April and May 2010, 94 persons were killed and more than 2000 were injured. A series of investigations have been carried out by different kinds of actors, including a state agency, two state-appointed independent bodies, and a citizen group. With the exception of the citizen group, the People’s Information Centre (PIC), which released its report in late August 2012, the operations and results of the investigations have not yet been made available to the public.

The ALRC calls on the state agency, the DSI, and the two state-appointed independent bodies, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, to complete their investigations and share the information with the public. The ALRC welcomes the report of the PIC as an important action by citizens in the service of protecting human rights and ending impunity. At the same time, the ALRC would like to highlight the fact that the securing of accountability is not only the responsibility of citizens, but the state must actively work to achieve this end as well. The public release of the reports by the DSI and other agencies is an important component of this work, as is the subsequent prosecution of state officials who used extrajudicial violence during the April-May 2010 crackdown.





More MFA claptrap

30 06 2012

In a recent post PPT commented on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs defense of monarchism and the lese majeste law.

In other posts earlier in the month, we reproduced the Asian Legal Resource Center’s statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council on continuing attacks on freedom of expression in Thailand and the death in custody of lese majeste convict Ampol Tangnopakul.

We now have the response of the government via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. PPT won’t detail it all. Find the text here and the video here (in Thailand, we found it very slow). It’s a deathly boring piece of propaganda, so we won’t go into detail and provide just a few comments.

The statement has it that:

Like in other democratic societies, the people in Thailand enjoy the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Differing views are aired widely and there are vibrant debates on all aspects of life.

This is a misrepresentation. No one engages in uncensored debate on the monarchy. While there has been more discussion of the monarchy under huge popular pressure, debate remains anything but vibrant. No one can criticize the judiciary in any “vibrant” way.

The statement continues:

… what has become the challenge for us as well as many others is how to strike the right balance between the right to freedom of expression and the rights of the rule of law.

We would have thought this a slip of the tongue as we can’t think of how a concept like “rule of law” has “rights.” However, we think the interpretation is that the Thai delegation is saying that the “democratic society” that the MFA calls Thailand, where “the people in Thailand enjoy the rights to freedom of opinion and expression,” is a fiction because the laws don’t allow freedom of expression.

The MFA continues:

As regards to Thailand’s lese majeste law, the Thai delegations would like to stress that the law itself is not aimed at curbing the rights and the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, including debates about the monarchy and the institution. Issues that have arisen with regard to the lese majesté law lie not in any fundamental problem with the law itself, but in the abuse of the law for political gain in the context of political conflicts which have been ongoing in Thailand for the past few years.

Of course, this statement, by moving the goalpost, immediately contradicts the earlier statements. “Vibrant” discussion is not limited to “academic debate.” The statement that the law is good but is used by political actors to curb rights and limit expression. The most significant actors are ultra-royalists, the Abhisit Vejjajiva government and the military. Other plaintiffs have included the Privy Council. The law is the problem; get rid of it and it can’t be abused.

The last statement in this paragraph is:

Indeed, an ongoing lively public debate has been taking place on the lese majesté law to which the Thai people will find an appropriate solution for themselves.

Of course, the government, the military, the palace, the opposition, and many more have stated that there will be no change to the law, ever. So much for “lively debate.” The royalist elite want no debate on Article 112 at all!

We are not sure if the MFA enjoys looking stupid and deceitful to international audiences.





ALRC on Ampol’s death in custody

14 06 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2012
ALRC-CWS-20-09-2012

Language(s): English only

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Twentieth session, Agenda Item 4, General Debate

A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status

THAILAND: Dehumanization and death in custody of a Thai citizen accused of lese majesty: The case of Amphon Tangnoppakul

On 8 May 2012, Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul (also known to his family as “Ah Kong” or “grandfather,” and to the public as “Uncle SMS”), a 61-year-old man, was found dead in prison custody. At the time of his death, Amphon was serving a 20-year sentence received upon being convicted of four violations under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act in Black Case No. 311/2554 on 23 November 2011. Amphon was convicted for allegedly sending four SMS messages to Mr. Somkiat Klongwattanasak, personal secretary of the former prime minister, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva. These four SMS messages allegedly contained vulgar language defaming the Thai queen and insulting the honour of the monarchy. Amphon’s conviction rested on questionable electronic evidence presented by the prosecution. The circumstances surrounding his death suggest the presence of, at best, gaps within the prison healthcare system and, at worst, gross negligence.

While it is too late for action to be taken which will save Amphon’s life, the ALRC brings this case to the attention of the Human Rights Council in the hope of raising awareness of problems within the Thai justice and prison systems. While these problems are relevant to all those in custody in Thailand, the ALRC would like to note the additional dangers faced by those in custody who are accused or have been convicted of the crime of allegedly insulting the monarchy. In present-day Thailand, the social and political crisis surrounding the monarchy and the fraught relationship between the institutions of the monarchy and those of democracy mean that alleged insults to the monarchy are categorized formally as crimes of national security and informally as crimes of sedition. Within this context, it then becomes possible for those charged with or convicted of insulting the monarchy to be treated as less than human, and for their persecution to be naturalized.

On 3 August 2010, a group of 15 police officers raided Amphon’s house and arrested him over the four SMS. He was detained for 63 days without being charged, before being granted bail on 4 October 2010. Amphon entered detention again upon being formally charged with violations of section 112 and the Computer Crimes Act on 18 January 2011. At the time he was charged, he was already suffering from oral cancer for which he had been receiving regular treatment, and his counsel immediately requested bail while awaiting trial on this basis. The court denied this request, as it did seven subsequent requests made before his trial, at the time of his conviction, and up until several months before his death. At the time of Amphon’s last request for bail, in February 2012, the Appeal Court ruled that this frail and sick elderly man with little money or resources was a flight risk, and that his illness, which constituted one of the grounds for the request, did “not appear to be life-threatening.”

When questioned about the repeated denial of bail in Amphon’s case, Mr. Sorawut Benchakul, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Office of the Judiciary, noted that while the right to bail is a fundamental human right, section 108 of the Thai Criminal Procedure Code allows for its denial when the court fears that the defendant might flee. Sorawut claimed that when Amphon requested bail, the medical certificate presented did not indicate grave illness. While Sorawut claimed that the vast majority of those charged under section 112 and the Computer Crimes Act are granted bail, in the absence of full statistics released by the judiciary on these cases, the claim cannot be confirmed. No explanation has been given as to why the court might have perceived Amphon to be a flight risk but—if the deputy secretary-general is to be believed—why the vast majority of applicants in similar cases obtain bail.

The ALRC would like to take this opportunity to remind the Government of Thailand that under article 9(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party,

“Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.”

The ALRC concludes that in the case of Amphon, the state in Thailand clearly and flagrantly violated this section. Amphon spent 63 days in pre-charge detention, and then 310 days detention prior to and during his trial. This is a total of 373 days in detention prior to being convicted, which represents a period of time in detention and trial length that is neither prompt nor reasonable.

Three months after the assessment by the Appeal Court that Amphon’s illness was not a threat to his life, he died in prison custody. While the full details have not yet been made available, the partial information made publicly available about the conditions surrounding his death point to significant problems of capacity and routine negligence, which together amount to a grave threat to the human rights of prisoners.

As reported in Khao Sod newspaper, several days after Amphon’s death, Police Colonel Dr. Supol Chongphanichkulthorn, spokesperson for the Police General Hospital, said that the preliminary results from the autopsy indicated that he died as a result of liver cancer that had metastasized throughout his body and caused respiratory failure. Dr. Cherdchai Tantisirin, a member of parliament from the majority Pheu Thai Party who was also present for the autopsy, commented that,

“We have to separate the issue of what is human from the issue of the case. If a person in detention is found to have cancer, he should be released in order to be treated outside . Moreover, in the case of Amphon, as far as I have seen, there are no indications of the actions of physicians or nurses trying to resuscitate him or otherwise help him.”

The ALRC would like to express concern over both the presence of metastatic cancer found in Amphon’s body as well as the observation by Dr. Cherdchai that there appears to have been no attempt to resuscitate him, which the ALRC would further note may have been due to a lack of adequate staff to closely monitor patients. Whether the failure to take action was an intentional decision to explicitly harm Amphon or the result of negligence or lack of capacity, the resultant violation of his human rights is the same. The ALRC would like to remind the Thai Government of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and in particular section 22(2) of the rules, that mandate that:

“Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers”; and, to section 25(2), that:

“The medical officer shall report to the director whenever he considers that a prisoner’s physical or mental health has been or will be injuriously affected by continued imprisonment or by any condition of imprisonment.”

On 16 May 2012, Dr. Sunai Chulpongsatorn, a member of parliament from the majority Pheu Thai Party and the chair of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, convened a meeting with representatives from relevant parties, including the Department of Corrections, the Prison General Hospital, the Office of the Judiciary, the National Human Rights Commission, as well as Amphon’s family and lawyers, to discuss his life and death. The comments made during the meeting suggest that the treatment of Amphon is not unusual and rather is representative of gross inadequacies that place Thailand far from meeting the guidelines outlined in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

In particular, Dr. Bunmee Wibulchak, a doctor at the general hospital of the Department of Corrections, acknowledged that the conditions in the hospital were not as good as hospitals outside the prison system: they did not have a full staff, and on the evenings and weekends, there were no doctors on duty, only nurses. If a prisoner was in need of medical treatment that a nurse could not provide, then she would call the doctor, who would provide orders via telephone. He further noted that several months earlier, when Amphon had come to the prison clinic complaining that he felt as though his cancer had returned, the conclusion by the prison physician and the ear, nose, and throat specialist who examined his mouth and throat was that it was not cancer. When Amphon entered the prison clinic and then the hospital in the days before he died, he had a painful stomachache. By Friday, 4 May 2012, the decision had been made for further examination and testing, but could only take place during normal working hours and days. By Tuesday, 8 May 2012, Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul was dead. Sickness and death frequently do not observe working hours.

In light of the above, the Asian Legal Resource Centre calls on the Government of Thailand to:

a. Conduct a special investigation into the death of Amphon Tangnoppakul and again table the findings publicly with a view to taking criminal legal action against the persons responsible for his death and administrative action against those officers who failed in their duty of care for a person in state custody, including prison officials, doctors and judicial officers, and ensure that compensation is given in accordance with international standards to his family.

b. Release statistics on the number of persons charged with lese majesty and offences under the Computer Crimes Act since the military coup of 2006, providing details on the average days spent in pre-charge detention, average days spent in pre-trial detention, average days spent in detention during trial, numbers of application for bail accepted and rejected and grounds for rejection, in order that the unsubstantiated and unverified claims on cases like those of Amphon be subject to public scrutiny.

c. Conduct a complete review of the current procedures and instructions to judges concerning the granting of bail, and in particular, the provision of bail in cases where detainees are elderly, infirm or sick and make the findings of the review known publicly and what action is taken on the basis of the review to ensure that bail is granted in accordance with the terms of international human rights law.

d. Conduct a complete review of the provision of medical services to persons in state custody, taking into account statements by the doctors in the case of Amphon both with regards to the circumstances of his death and conditions in prison medical facilities in general, again make the findings and recommendations of the review known publicly, and indicate what steps are taken to implement recommendations to ensure that no further tragic deaths in custody occur as in the case of Amphon.

e. Revoke section 112 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act, both of which are vehicles for the abuse of human rights by state agents and neither of which serves its ostensible purposes of protecting Thailand’s national interests.





Freedom of expression (still) under attack

12 06 2012

A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2012
ALRC-CWS-20-06-2012

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Twentieth session, Agenda Item 3, Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression

THAILAND: Freedom of expression under attack

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to bring the crisis of freedom of expression in Thailand to the attention of the Human Rights Council. This statement is the third on this topic that the ALRC has submitted to the Council since May 2011. During the seventeenth session of the Council in May 2011, the ALRC highlighted the rise in the legal and unofficial use of section 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA) to constrict freedom of expression and intimidate citizens critical of the monarchy (A/HRC/17/NGO/27). In February 2012, the ALRC detailed some of the threats faced both by those who have expressed critical views of the monarchy, both legal and extralegal, as well as those who have expressed concern about these threats (A/HRC/19/NGO/55).

The ALRC is again raising the freedom of expression to stress the persistence of the threat present, foreground the intensification of the dangers to human rights in Thailand broadly, and to acknowledge the continued courageous actions by citizens to revise or revoke section 112 and the CCA, despite these threats and dangers. As the ALRC has continually stressed, within the context of the political crisis that began with the 19 September 2006 coup and greatly increased with the violence of April-May 2010, the protection of fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, is essential if there is to be the possibility of successful democratization and widespread access to justice in Thailand.

Section 112 criminalizes criticism of the monarchy and mandates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” Statistics provided by the Office of the Judiciary indicate a sharp rise in lese-majesty charges filed since the 19 September 2006 coup, with 33 charges filed in 2005, 30 filed in 2006, 126 filed in 2007, 77 filed in 2008, 164 filed in 2009, and an extraordinary 478 charges filed in 2010. While statistics released for the first five months of 2011 indicate a reduction in the number of charges filed, information for the second half of 2011 and 2012 to date has not been made available publicly. The failure of the Government of Thailand to provide information itself raises many unanswered questions about the use of the law to diminish space for freedom of expression through the use of secrecy and generating of uncertainty.

Court judgments in cases of individuals charged and prosecuted under a combination of section 112 and the CCA are similarly resistant to scrutiny and ready comprehension. Section 14 of the CCA notes that anyone can be jailed for five years if found to have imported to a computer “false computer data in a manner that it is likely to damage the country’s security or cause a public panic… any computer data related with an offence against the Kingdom’s security under the Criminal Code.” As section 112 also is classed as a crime related to national security, it can be powerfully combined with the CCA to punish dissent, or perceived dissent, carried out via electronic means. Two recent cases, of Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul and Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, illustrate the dangers to freedom of expression posed by categorizing criticism of the monarchy as a crime against national security and the lacunae in the CCA, which makes it a ready vehicle for enhancing these dangers.

On 8 May 2012, Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul, a 61-year-old man, was found dead in prison custody. At the time of his death, Amphon was serving a 20-year sentence received upon being convicted of four violations under section 112 and the CCA on 23 November 2011. Amphon was convicted for allegedly sending four SMS messages defaming the Thai queen and insulting the honor of the monarchy. In this submission, we concentrate on the legal ambiguities and lacunae in the case that go to the criminalizing of free speech through the use of section 112 and the CCA in Thailand:

a. Similar to other court decisions in cases of alleged violations under section 112 and the CCA, the judges in this case had to infer the meaning of the four SMS messages in question (which was imprecise), the alleged intention of the defendant, and speculate on any potential damage caused to the monarchy and national security. At best, the court’s interpretation could be described as legally inexact. At worst, it can be described as complete fiction.

b. The court’s logic in finding the four SMS messages in question criminal rested on an argument about the validity of the information contained within them and on what this might cause readers of the messages to believe. More specifically, the judgment reads that the messages were

“… the import to a computer system of false computer data, that was defamatory, insulting, and threating to the king, queen, heir-apparent, and regent. would cause those who saw it to believe that the content of the messages was the truth, which would damage the nation’s security. As a result, some of the aforementioned actions of the defendant are likely to damage the honor and reputation of the king, queen, heir-apparent, and regent and to cause them to be insulted and despised. With an intention to cause the people to dishonor, fail to venerate, and threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent, and regent.”

Throughout the decision the adjective “likely” is used; in other words, damage was not caused by the SMS messages, but was probable in the opinion of the court. The ruling was not one that found the defendant guilty beyond doubt, but rested on a highly uncertain balance of probability.

c. In addition, to interpret under the CCA the sending of a rude SMS message as “the import to a computer system of false computer data” is to stretch the category of “false computer data” beyond the already broad ambit provided by the law. Several pages later in the court decision, “false” is elaborated in political, rather than scientific or legal terms. The judges write that the four SMS messages in question

“… are entirely false because the truth reflected for the people around the country is the king and the queen are full of compassion. They are concerned for every person in the land and perform their royal duties for the benefit and happiness of the Thai citizenry.”

While this may be the judges’ opinion of the monarchy, to categorize it as truth is an ideological stance inappropriate for an ostensibly independent judiciary to take, and does not constitute any form of grounds for conviction under law. Further, given the increased frequency with which section 112 is being enforced, this statement is difficult to appeal against, either in law or in public debate, without also risking being charged under the law.

d. Finally, even if the accused in this case had committed the offences as alleged, the 20-year sentence raises significant concerns about the proportionality of punishment for crimes of defamation in Thailand and speaks manifestly to an imbalance in the law of Thailand as written and as currently enforced between protecting the sovereign and protecting the human rights of people residing in the country.

On 30 May 2012, Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, a 44-year-old human rights defender and webmaster of Prachatai, an independent online news site, was found guilty of one count out of ten alleged charges of violating the CCA. The charges against her in this case stemmed from her alleged failure to remove comments deemed offensive to the monarchy from the Prachatai webboard quickly enough. The prosecution alleged that this indicated her support of and consent to the comments, which constituted a violation under the CCA. She was sentenced to one year in prison and a 30,000 baht fine, which was reduced to a suspended sentence of eight months and a 20,000 baht fine.

a. In the decision, the judges responded with an assessment of the appropriate length of time. The decision notes that in nine of the ten comments in question, they were removed within one to eleven days, and that this indicates that Chiranuch did not intentionally support or consent to them. In the instance of the tenth comment, which remained online for twenty days before she removed it, however, the court concluded that this duration indicated “implied consent.”

b. Of particular concern to the ALRC was a statement in the ruling that while apparently endorsing freedom of expression in fact does precisely the opposite by imposing on the public the obligation to self-censor or be subject to criminal actions:

“The court acknowledges that freedom of expression is a basic right of citizens that is guaranteed and protected in every Thai Constitution. This is because freedom of thought and expression reflects good governance and the democratization of a given entity or nation. Criticism from the people, both positive and negative, provides an opportunity to improve the nation, given entity, and individuals for the better. But when the defendant opened a channel for the expression of opinions within a computer system, she was the service provider and it was within her control. The defendant had a duty to review the opinions and information that may have impacted the country’s security as well as the liberty of others which deserves similar respect. the defendant cannot cite freedom of expression in order to be released from liability.”

This statement, far from being an endorsement of free expression, is a direct attempt of the Court to disavow the right to freedom of expression found both in the Constitution of Thailand and in the ICCPR. The role of the Court and the judiciary in a broad sense should be to aid the development of justice and the rule of law, not aid in its dismemberment.

The ALRC is concerned that the cases of both Amphon Tangnoppakul and Chiranuch Premchaiporn are both indicative of how the judiciary in Thailand is marshaling spare evidence to convict persons of offences under political laws, and in so doing, of its role in eroding institutions and structures that are supposed to guarantee human rights and protect freedom of expression.

The ALRC also wishes to draw the Council’s attention to the courage of human rights activists, media advocates, and citizens in Thailand who continue to call for reform of section 112 despite the growing legal and extrajudicial threats they face. Under the 2007 Constitution, if at least 10,000 citizens sign in support of a proposed amendment to law, then it must be examined by the parliament. On 28 May 2012, the Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Section 112, a coalition of human rights and media activists, writers, artists, and citizens, presented 26,968 signatures in support of an amendment to section 112 limiting its use and reducing the punishment for violations. It is essential that in the coming months, the 26,968 citizens who signed in support of the draft amendment do not experience harassment or other repercussions for doing so.

The Asian Legal Resource Centre expresses solidarity with those persons in Thailand working to have laws aimed at narrowing the freedom of expression revoked or amended, and calls upon the Human Rights Council and also Special Procedures of the Commissioner for Human Rights to contribute to their efforts by urging the Government of Thailand to make the necessary changes to protect this fundamental human right. In this regard, the ALRC calls on the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to continue to monitor the situation on the ground in Thailand and to request the government to make an official visit to the country at the nearest possible opportunity to meet with concerned persons and produce a report with recommendations to the Government of Thailand for legal and institutional changes to the same end.





Political repression, disappearances and lese majeste

22 03 2012

The following is a reproduction of an oral statement to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, which as an NGO has consultative status.

THAILAND: Political repression, disappearances and attacks on activists highlighted during Thai UPR outcome adoption

Thank you Madam President,

The ALRC welcomes Thailand’s UPR, which has highlighted many shared human rights concerns, including torture, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, freedom of expression and lèse majesté, prison conditions, corruption, impunity, violations in the southern provinces, as well as the need for review of problematic laws, institutional reform, and a standing invitation to Special Procedures.

The ALRC welcomes the government’s signing of the international convention on disappearances in January, but this is only a first step, with effective legislation that defines and criminalises disappearances an urgent must. Eight years this week after the disappearance of renowned human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, his family have been prevented from achieving truth, justice and remedies in court, in large part due to the lack of such legislation. They continue to face grave threats and harassment. That Somchai’s is the only case of forced disappearance to have reached prosecution in court in Thailand speaks to the need for action by the government concerning disappearances and protection of witnesses and family-members.

The ALRC has noted with concern in a written submission, the growing threats to political freedom in Thailand. Following a number of lengthy sentences having been handed out abusively concerning lèse majesté under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crime Act, including several since Thailand’s UPR review in October 2011, in recent months, academic and human rights defenders who have called for reform of Article 112, have been threatened by high-ranking state and military officers and received explicit death threats from vigilante actors. There has been a dramatic increase in lèse majesté cases since the 19 September 2006 coup, and despite numerous domestic and international calls for action, the government has refused to review these laws to date. The ALRC calls on the government of Thailand to halt the afore-mentioned threats and abusive use of lèse majesté, and to allow a country visit by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression as a priority.

The ALRC also notes with concern that the UPR process has not addressed the increasingly grave problem of rights violations connected to development projects, as well as land and natural resources grabbing. In addition to concerns for the numerous affected communities, the ALRC condemns the reported threats and attacks, including abusive legal attacks and a number of extra-judicial killings, to which human rights defenders working on environmental issues are increasingly being subjected.






Saying no

13 03 2012

Yes, Thailand has made some progress at the U.N. Human Rights Council, having agreed to a swathe of recommendations. However, the government will reject 40 of the 172 recommendations.

There are no prizes for guessing what some of these 40 rejected human rights advances might be:

that Thailand abolish the provisions in the Martial Law Act and Section 17 of the Emergency Decree which grant state officials immunity from criminal and civil prosecution, review Section 112 and the Computer Crime Act to ensure freedom of expression and get rid of the death penalty.

Military and monarchy, still together in anti-human rights harmony.








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