Arbitrary detention of pro-democracy activists

3 09 2016

The following is a submission to the 33rd Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre:

ALRC-CWS-33-007-2016
August 29, 2016

THAILAND: End Arbitrary Arrest and Arbitrary Detention against pro-democracy activists

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to draw the attention of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to the fact that on 11 May 2016, in response to expressed concerns about freedom of expression and opinion, Thailand’s delegation to the Universal Periodic Review stated to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) that the Government “encourages exchanging of views including through public hearings, about national reform and drafting of the new Constitution by all sectors of the society, both at national and international level.”.

The ALRC would like to point out the manifest inaccuracy of this statement. The May 2014 Military coup, establishing the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta ruling body, has sent Thailand’s human rights situation into a free fall. Although the Government and the NCPO scheduled the date of 7 August 2016 for the constitutional referendum, the rights groups noticed that the referendum process was not “Free and Fair”. This is due to the fact that the government imposed the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2015, the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016), Article 116 of Criminal Code (Sedition), and the Computer-Related Crime Act B.E. 2550 (2007) to restrict people’s right to discuss and criticise decisions about their country in the draft of Constitution and referendum process.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), from 29 April 2016 to 5 August 2016, at least 195 individuals have been arrested and detained. Of these, 149 individuals were charged with the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2015, 28 individuals were charged with the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E.2559 (2016), 13 individuals were charged with Article 116 of Criminal Code (Sedition), and one person was charged with the Computer-Related Crime Act B.E. 2550 (2007). Many of the charges against individuals, which include student activists, labor activists, reporters, and ordinary persons, involve denials of rights to freedoms of expression, association, and assembly in the referendum process. Apparently, the Government fails to recognize rights guaranteed by Articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Thailand in 1948 and 1996, respectively.

It can be clearly seen that the deprivation of liberty, especially arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention result from the exercise of the rights to freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. Therefore, the government also fails to recognize rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the ICCPR. Moreover, the ALRC has found that the rights of individuals who were prosecuted by the authorities do not accord with Criminal Procedure Code and Article 14 of the ICCPR. The ALRC is gravely concerned with the violation of internationally protected fair trial rights, especially right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence, and rights to fair hearing by a competent, impartial, and independent tribunal in the Military Court.

For instance, the police accused 13 pro-democracy activists of violating the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2015, which bans political gatherings. The activists were seeking to distribute campaign flyers for the upcoming draft constitution referendum. On 23 June 2016, at around 5:30 p.m., combined forces of police and Military arrested the New Democracy Movement (NDM), student activists, and members of the Triumph Labour Union. All 13 of them were arrested while they were distributing leaflets, fliers, and documents to passers-by. The documents give a little information about the draft Constitution and explain the reasons why people should reject it. All of them were apprehended and taken to the Bang Sao Thaong Police Station. They were detained in police custody overnight and six of them who requested bail during the police stage were denied bail.

On 24 June 2016, all the 13 were brought to the pre-trial remand hearing at the Bangkok Military Court. Although, the alleged offenders’ attorneys filed a motion to object to the remand request, citing that “the Head of the NCPO No. 3/2015 is not an applicable law and its Article 12 (ban on any political gathering of five persons or more) is a restriction on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are recognized in the ICCPR, to which Thailand is a state party. Also, the right to freedom of expression should not be criminalized. In addition, the NCPO Announcement no. 37/2014 which specifies the jurisdiction of the Military Courts states that the Military Court can only adjudicate cases relating to offences against the Announcements or Orders of the NCPO, not the Order of the Head of the NCPO. Therefore, the Bangkok Military Court has no power to review the case and to conduct the remand hearing in this case.

Nevertheless, the Military Court persisted to issue a writ to have the 13 alleged offenders remanded, claiming that they were just arrested and more time was needed for police investigation including several more witnesses to be interviewed and deeming that the objection of the alleged offenders was a legal defence. Thus, the Court dismissed the objection to the remand motion, and approved a 12-day pre-trial remand, as submitted by the police.

In addition, on 10 July 2016, the Ban Pong police searched the vehicle of the three NDM activists, and found campaign material about the Constitutional Referendum and “Vote No” fliers. They were then held in custody for questioning, together with a reporter from Prachatai. No charges were initially pressed against them, but afterwards the Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7 instructed the officer to charge them with violating the Constitutional Referendum Act B.E. 2559 (2016) for preparing to distribute the fliers.

The officials have thus seized the evidence and informed the arrestees of the charge against them for “having transmitted a text, or an image, or sound through the print media, or radio, or television, or electronic media, or other channels, which are inconsistent with the truth or are violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening and aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction shall be considered as disrupting the referendum”, which is an offence of the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 Paragraph Two.

Of late, at 8:20 p.m., it was reported that four vehicles of police officials have laid siege to the residence of Mr. Panuwat Songsawatchai, student of Faculty of Political Science, Maejo University Phrae Campus, Maejo University. Mr. Songsawatchai was another suspect in the same case, who was summoned to turn himself in at the Ban Pong Police Station as a result of his activity at the referendum monitoring center in the morning. He was pressed with the same charge as the four individuals.

On 11 July 2016, at 9:00 a.m., all five were brought to the pre-trial remand hearing at the Provincial Court of Ratchaburi. The police investigator of Ban Pong Police Station asked the Court to have them remanded for 12 days and the Court approved what the police submitted. However, five alleged offenders have been released by the order of the Court, by placing bail bond at 140,000 Baht (around 3,975 $USD) each.

Lastly, only one day before the referendum, the Thai authorities arrested two pro-democracy activists in Chaiyaphum Province, northeastern Thailand, for distributing anti-Constitution flyers. One of the students, Mr. Jatupat Boompatararaksa, a core member of the Northeastern (E-Saan) New Democracy Movement (NDM) activist group, refused to apply for bail and had been on hunger strike in the District Prison of Phu Khiao. He preferred to affirm his innocence and to protest against the country’s broken justice system. The other student, Mr. Wasin Prommanee, has been bailed out.

According to the inquiry officials, the two alleged offenders were accused of committing an offence against the Constitutional Referendum Act’s Section 61 (1) and Section 61 paragraph Two, punishable by not more than ten years of imprisonment, a fine of 200,000 Baht, and against the Announcement of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) no. 2, the previous junta, punishable by not more than six months of imprisonment or a fine of not more than 1,000 baht or both.

In view of the above, the ALRC requests the Human Rights Council to urge the Thai government to immediately drop all charges against political activists, especially student activist and to release those jailed for voicing dissent on the draft charter in the run-up to the referendum. In addition, the Thai government should suspend the use of military courts and military orders in cases involving civilians. These measures are now urgently needed as Thailand moves towards an election in 2017 aimed at restoring democracy, as proposed in the government’s roadmap.

Finally, the ALRC believes that the election next year represents an opportunity for Thailand to meet the commitment it made at the UN Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review in May 2016 to fully respect the freedom of expression, and therefore guarantee a more inclusive and participatory process that involves all political parties, civil society, and the media in an open and non-threatening environment.

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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.





The Dictator and “security”

5 06 2016

Readers might wish to speculate on why the International Institute for Strategic Studies  and its host and sponsors in the Singapore government would invite The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha to present a Keynote Speech to its 15th Shangri-la Dialogue. Sorry, but this is a long post.

For those who wish to watch and read The Dictator’s speech, the ISIS has provided a “provisional” transcript (in English) and a video of his speech (delivered in Thai and here with a voice-over). In fact, if a PDF of the speech is downloaded, it is a “draft,” produced by The Dictator’s staff.

Interestingly, Prayuth’s moniker on the speech is: “GENERAL (RETD) PRAYUT CHAN-O-CHA.” The “retired” bit is perhaps an attempt to appear civilianized, perhaps  not wanting to scare the Europeans? Later in the speech The Dictator says he is “an ex-military officer…”. Perhaps he’s thinking about a “political” career in the next “administration”?

The introduction of Prayuth begins about 5.40 mins into the video. It begins with a claim that The Dictator “came to politics late in his career.” Nonsense, of course, for Thailand’s generals are political animals who covet political status and they regularly engage in political actions, almost always in support of the royalist elite of the ruling class.

That said, the introduction of Prayuth is pretty much factual, although the claim that the draft constitution, if approved in a referendum, “will provide a framework for a return to democracy” is ludicrous. The introduction also seems to acknowledge that the IISS is the first to provide Thailand’s military dictator with a stage.

Prayuth was asked to provide Thailand’s “outlook” on regional security. That Prayuth spoke in Thai is interesting, not least because anti-democrats repeatedly ridiculed Yingluck Shinawatra for her less than fluent English. Prayuth is not a leader with any great international experience, education or knowledge. Hence, we doubt that Prayuth has an “outlook” on much at all – his view is inward – and we guess that the speech is not his own work but rather that of the hirelings, albeit reflective of the regime’s positions.

Prayuth’s speech begins around 8:30 mins into the video. Most of what he says about security is basic, at about the level one might expect from undergraduate studying security and international relations. Some readers may find his comments on China of interest.

Thailand’s military dictator begins his speech by saying that it is an “honour for me to have been invited by the Prime Minister of Singapore and the Director-General of the IISS to give the keynote speech…”.

In an early report, Khaosod picked up agency accounts of the speech, and concentrated on The Dictator’s defense of military rule in Thailand, again raising his well-known junta shibboleths, here using our words as well as Prayuth’s: that repression represents a transition to “a strong and sustainable democracy;” that the junta will eventually handover to another “administration;”and so on (readers know the drill).

Prayuth was big on defending his military regime. He begins in the 4th of 47 paragraphs in his speech. About a quarter of the speech is given over to Thailand’s domestic politics with The Dictator essentially pleading for understanding of the “need” for repression, censorship and more in the name of stability, security and something he calls “equilibrium.”

In his first mention of Thailand, the General (Retd) bemoans the difficulties of “maintaining security equilibrium” and claims “Thailand is an example of a country that has perhaps lost its equilibrium in the past several years…”. What he seems to means is that the ruling class’s control was upset by upstart elected politicians. He “explains” that Thailand had previously “been successful in maintaining a good balance and equilibrium in the past, even during periods of war and crisis.” Of course, most of that period was under a military leadership or military backed government.

Prayuth declares that “Thailand is increasingly getting back on track even though a number of challenges remain to be addressed…”. Oddly, he claims this is “through cooperation between many sides both within Thailand and internationally…”.

Of course, as a good royalist, Prayuth has to mention the king. He does this when linking security, development and the failed and ignored “sufficiency economy” notion:

Thailand … places importance on addressing the root causes and focusing on development from within. The Thai Government [he means his junta] has laid down a secure and sustainable foundations, whether in terms of politics, economics and society, and initiated the “Pracharat 4Ps” policy (Public-Private-People Partnership) so that all sectors of society are involved in the country’s development. In all this, we are guided by His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy, which is based on His Majesty’s development experiences accumulated over the course of 40 years and which places the people at the core. This year, in fact, is the 10th anniversary of His Majesty’s being awarded the ‘UNDP Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award,’ in 2006, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, which is in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Agenda.

Probably only royalists would recall and celebrate an award anniversary. But that award is a part of palace propaganda that The Dictator upholds.

The sixth part of his speech focuses on Thailand and is headed “Thailand in Transition,” followed by a seventh section, ” Solving Thailand’s Problems.”

The Dictator’s aide’s and advisers develop a line to justify a military dictatorship by harping on about the “security of every country and the region is intertwined.” Prayuth seems to imply that previously, elected governments somehow threatened regional security. The advisers seem to have had a light bulb moment on this, for they repeat it: “Thailand’s stability will have an effect on ASEAN and regional stability.”

This daft claim is a lead in to the usual elitist and paternalist and, no matter how many times we hear it, the junta’s preposterous justification of political repression cast as Thailand’s “transition towards a strong and sustainable democracy.”

The Dictator’s justification is initially couched in terms of “national security” where he mentions a litany of travails and failures that have beset the junta: “poverty, social disparities, the middle income trap, a fall in agricultural output as a result of  drought, and falling commodity prices brought on by the global economic slump.” He adds: “unrest in the southern border provinces,” hastening to add that this is “an internal problem and not a conflict stemming from religious tensions or one with foreign involvement.” For good measure he throws in “difficulties that have come with irregular migration and the need for foreign migrant workers who number in millions and this has led to  many social problems…”.

But he then gets to his point, essentially repeating the laundry list of anti-democrat claims about electoral politics in Thailand:

… our key problem recently has been political conflict and unprecedented divisiveness in the country.  This has stemmed from a political setting that has produced democracy only in form but not in function, thus resulting in national administration that lacked good governance. The public budget was used for political gain. There was ineffective populism and rampant corruption, which then led to political conflicts that could not be addressed through democratic process. There were legal deadlocks and the rallying of opposing sides in clashes. There was manipulation of the media to take sides, the escalation of violence, the breakdown of the rule of law and ultimately, the use of weapons in conflict.

As an ally of the anti-democrats and an ideological fellow-traveler, The Dictator seems to have convinced himself of this story. He goes on:

There was no order in society, which was increasingly characterized by demands for unlimited rights and freedoms that violated communal peace and the rights of other members of the public.

Readers will recognize the claims as a justification for military intervention and two years of unremitting oppression. And here’s that intervention justified in terms we have heard countless times, presented to an international audience:

This required an intervention to end hostilities, prevent further conflict, and bring the country towards a new era of reform.  If left unattended, Thailand would lose its equilibrium and head towards unprecedented civil unrest and perhaps even civil war.  There was no other way other than to intervene and restore peace and order in society and rebuild our democracy so that is stronger and sustainable.  I add that to this day, there are still politically motivated Thai individuals in and outside the country who abuse social media to distort the facts.

That last sentence actually sounds like Prayuth using his own voice.

More blarney is then pedaled, justifying repression again and again, this time trotting out a series of lies:

We do not have any intentions to violate human rights, or to restrict basic rights and freedoms, but that it was necessary for the military to take control the situation to prevent the escalation of violence and conflict, and to restore the rule of law and social order only for a while.  Given this, all our measures have been based on the rule of law, the equal application of the law and law enforcement. We have enforced the law only in situations when laws have been broken. Taking action in these stances should not be considered as in violation of  any human rights, even though they are separated only by a very thin line.

We have already commented on this list of lies, last presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council. No need to go there again. However, Prayuth’s forked tongue continues to flap, presenting the junta’s position in a way that his audience could not possibly understand:

The Royal Thai Government is currently committed to maintaining peacefulness and orderliness, addressing political problems through strengthening our democracy, fostering reconciliation, addressing economic problems, restoring confidence for investors and the international community, combating corruption, reforming and modernizing our laws, reforming our civil administration, instituting social orderliness, reducing disparities, developing the country to have a deep-rooted resilience through the adoption of His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in national administration, with the Pracharat approach to cooperation to reduce social disparities and progress the country towards a Thailand 4.0 status through supporting modernisation of 5 existing industries and supporting capacity-building for 5 new industries of Thailand.

Democracy = the non-democracy of Thai-style democracy. Thailand 4.0 = no audience member could know. 5 exiting industries = who knows. 5 new industries of Thailand = who knows. It is as though the aides ran out of material and shook a couple of recent speeches, shook them and picked up the meaningless phrases that dropped from them.

Then there is the “20-Year National Strategic Plan and a Roadmap including phase one, two, and three…”. And the promise, long delayed as the “roadmap” has been altered and neglected: “I can assure you that Thailand will return to democracy in accordance with the Roadmap…”.

He means his and his junta’s plans for a regime that will come from token elections and that will be dominated for 20 years by the military.





Updated: On Article 44 and jobs for the junta’s boys

19 05 2016

PPT has continued looking through material available for the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review. For those interested in the review’s draft report and lists of recommendations, this is available at the UPR Extranet (https://extranet.ohchr.org/sites/upr/Sessions/25session/Thailand/Pages/default.aspx) logging in [username: hrc extranet (with space); password: 1session].

In recent days we looked at two pieces of the Thailand country submission, one a Statement on Civil and Political Rights and the other a Statement on Military Court. Both were presented by members of the huge Thailand delegation.

Both are cut-and-paste jobs and poorly written. The first, for example, confuses a person acquitted under the lese majeste law with one who is convicted. That’s a remarkable error!

Or maybe a slip of the pen, for almost no one is acquitted under Article 112.

We were drawn back to the claims about Article 44. The delegation states:

On Section 44 of the Interim Constitution, the power authorized under Section 44 is not new in the history of Thai politics. During the past 50 years, article similar to Section 44 has appeared in other Interim Constitutions. Section 44 is invoked only under specific circumstances and has been used in a limited manner. Since its entry into force, the NCPO has exercised its power under this Section to maintain public order and to enhance bureaucratic efficiency where ordinary laws and regulations do not exist, such as in anti-human trafficking efforts, anti-drug policy, and civil aviation issues.

Even in this statement, it is evident that “limited manner” is a manipulation of the truth. It is not clear how “bureaucratic efficiency” requires a draconian decree like this. More recently, there is another example of the junta using Article 44 as an order that serves its interests and doing things that might otherwise be illegal (if Thailand were not a military dictatorship) and placing trusted operatives in key positions.

According to the Bangkok Post, the junta has used Article 44 for an appointment that has again “bypassed the screening process…”. The military junta has appointed Police General “Chaiya Siriamphunkul of the Royal Thai Police Office the new chief of the Anti-Money Laundering Office.”

The junta stated that it used Article 44 for this appointment to “facilitate the ‘urgent tasks’ carried out by the agency, while the selection process was ‘time-consuming’, according to the Royal Gazette” announcement.

Clearly, appointing a critical position in an agency such as AMLO should require a clean record and a “process,” but not for the junta, which wants control into the future and appoints trusted acolytes.

Chaiya has royal, Privy Council and business connections. He has a long record of anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activism. He has previously been entrusted with chairing the committee charged with removing Thaksin’s police rank and decorations. Obviously, this is another case of jobs for the junta’s boys and using Article 44 facilitates that and prevents any scrutiny.

Update: On misleading the UN, readers may find the account by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights useful. They take up 16 aspects where the junta’s delegation has lied, misrepresented or fudged.





Disingenuous, daft or both?

17 05 2016

Like many others, we often find that the news emanating from the military dictatorship is confused and confusing. We tend to think this is because the members of the junta are confused by the complexities of turning a modern state into a feudal backwater.

When it comes to human rights, the junta is clearly flummoxed and out of its depth. So isolated are the junta’s members that they have no idea – none at all – about how to deal with this international issue. The average noodle vendor on Sukhumvit have more insight on such matters than any of the generals running the country.

So when The Nation reports that the junta “will clarify to the international community that Thailand,” we cringe, we laugh, we cry.

On its human rights violations, the junta says it “needs to enforce the law but it does not violate human rights…”. Now, that is pretty vague and vacant and a sensible junta mouthpiece might stop there. As most criminals know, it is always best to deny the charges.

But the sad thing is that these dolts can’t help themselves and they resort to lies: “The NCPO insists that it has never harassed anyone or violated human rights…”.

No one believes this nonsensical lie. Even the controlled media in Thailand reports harassment every single day. PPT won’t even bother listing them for anyone with half a brain can google the juntas transgressions.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam startled when he seriously stated that “the NCPO had not committed any unlawful acts but only acted under its orders.” Translation: we made the rules and we use them to put political opponents in jail, harass them, drag them before military courts, torture, disappear and preside over mysterious deaths in custody. But our rules allow the junta to do this.

Apparently, the “Foreign Ministry had been asked by a high-level committee [the junta] to steer and expedite government policies and to work proactively and explain to the world community Thailand’s context and circumstances.” If they use these kinds of sad lines to “explain,” they’ll be more of an international laughing stock than they are now.

It gets worse, funnier, sillier. The Bangkok Post reports on Justice Ministry permanent secretary Charnchao Chaiyanukit who had the junta’s tatty reputation to protect at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review. That Review was the worst Thailand has received in living memory.

Charnchao declares that for all the criticism, “Thailand was also applauded for making progress in ensuring certain protections…. [T]he country was praised for improving its citizens’ economic and cultural rights, tightening anti-human trafficking measures, and improving healthcare access.” We can’t find this anywhere, but perhaps Charnchao confuses praise from others with chatter among the 37 Thai delegates sent to the meeting, probably while shopping.

Charnchao reckons his delegation “issued clarifications and explanations as to why it is necessary to curb human rights during the current political climate, and the forum was not a chance to single Thailand out.” In fact, Thailand was “singled out” for criticism as our earlier post shows. But Charnchai has here contradicted the junta. He says the delegation explain “why it is necessary to curb human rights” while the junta says it does no such thing. Confusingly, he then added, the “review also gave Thailand the opportunity to inform the international community on how well the country is protecting human rights…”. We guess Charnchai is not dyslexic, just disingenuous.

He then says, “It is not that the country was called by the UN to answer criticisms…”. Read the report and tell us Charnchai isn’t quite bonkers.

We can’t wait for September when Thailand can “comment.” We understand that the junta is hiring international lawyers and lobbyists to help them with this.

Dewey, Cheatum and Howe





Outcome of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review

16 05 2016

Justice Ministry permanent secretary and junta mouthpiece  Charnchao Chaiyanukit is reported in the Bangkok Post, justifying the junta’s rotten human rights record and its pathetic performace before the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

He is reported as saying that Thailand had “accepted 181 out of 249 recommendations, while 68 were noted for further consideration.” He explained that “[s]ome of the recommendations Thailand needs to consider include limits on rights that would affect national security, the lese majeste law, amendments to the Computer Crime Act and the ending of death row and the use of the military court against citizens.” He added that a “meeting will be held between state authorities and cabinet members to put forward the 68 recommendations following which the cabinet will be asked to make comments on each.”

In other words, the junta is going to reject recommendations in all of these areas. Yet a perusal of the 68 recommendations that have effectively been rejected is, in fact, defining of the military junta. We list some of these:

Twelve recommendations relate to the abolition of the death penalty. Thailand has not officially executed anyone since 2009, but the military regime is unlikely to accede to the abolition. Many die in extrajudicial killings by the military and police.

Three recommendations relate to conventions on Genocide, International Criminal Court and Rome Statute. Thailand under a military regime that came to power trampling the bodies of civilian protesters is not about to allow itself to be subject to international scrutiny on these matters.

Four recommendations variously called on the junta to comply with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and put an immediate end to the use of arbitrary detention. The Czech Republic and New Zealand makes several recommendations for the end of the practice of forced detention of dissenters in the “re-education camps” and “attitude adjustment” and recommended the government investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment associated with such detentions. New Zealand wants all those arrested in such circumstances to “have access to justice and a fair trial…”. The military junta uses arbitrary detention on almost a daily basis so is never going to agree to this recommendation. As all PPT readers know, “re-education” and “attitude adjustment” are critical elements of the junta’s regime and so these recommendations will be ignored.

Canada recommends that the junta “[c]reate an independent body to investigate all torture allegations…”. As torture is a standard operating procedure in the military and police, this recommendation will be rejected.

Two recommendations relate to ILO Conventions that have not been ratified by Thailand. Workers’ rights are not on the junta’s agenda. The military has long repressed labor and considers that the subordinate classes should know their position.

Four recommendations directly address the junta’s restrictions on freedoms and its manipulation of law. Australia recommends the “[r]epeal all orders of the National Council for Peace and Order that are inconsistent with its international human rights obligations.” The USA directs attention to the referendum law and its restrictions. The Netherlands recommends the junta “[r]estore the protection of civil and political rights by ensuring that the Constitution meets Thailand’s international human rights obligations and end the present prosecution of civilians in military courts.” Each of these recommendations restricts the junta’s capacity to act arbitrarily and so will be rejected.

Botswana, Brazil, Finland, Italy and the UK specifically addressed freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and called for all legislation affecting freedom of expression to be “compatible and implemented in line with Thailand’s international obligations…”. This will be rejected, perhaps with pathetic claims about the cultural content of the junta’s repression.

Norway recommended that the junta “[p]ropose concrete dates for visits by the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of association and assembly respectively…”. The junta doesn’t want international scrutiny, so this recommendation will be ditched.

Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay and the USA all called for an end the prosecution of civilians in military courts. Not only did the junta’s representatives lie about this central element of its regime before the Human Rights Council, but the junta has already “explained” that it will continue to put civilian opponents in military courts before unqualified military judges.

Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Spain and the US called for abolition or reform of the lese majeste law. Several of these states and Sweden also demanded the end of or reform to the computer crimes, public assembly, slander and defamation laws. There is no chance that the royalist junta, managing succession, will do anything along such lines.

For those interested in the review’s draft report and lists of recommendations, this is available at the UPR Extranet (https://extranet.ohchr.org/sites/upr/Sessions/25session/Thailand/Pages/default.aspx) logging in [username:  hrc extranet (with space); password: 1session]. We include a PDF of the report A.HRC.WG.6.25.L.13 – After adoption here.





Updated: Junta lost in international politics

14 05 2016

PPT has long observed that the junta is manned – and its almost all men involved – by a bunch of inglorious dolts who got to their positions in military and government, not through learning or skills in any arena other than in posterior polishing, mostly in the palace, but of other superiors as they gravitated to the top. Almost none of them have any capacity in governance or foreign affairs.

In foreign affairs, the junta’s record is lamentable. Most recently, its performance at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was full of lies and hypocrisy. It has to be admitted that “defending” the junta’s record is like pushing piles of excrement up mountains. Yet even looking beyond human rights, the military dictatorship has shown itself incapable. Think of it s failures with the EU. Its fallout with the USA and even its problems with China (on the latter, the big deal was rail, and that seems gone).

In recent days, the junta and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs flunkies have been in a spin over the US and its relationship with the junta. The junta’s actions demonstrate its lack of diplomatic skill and its narrow-minded and bloody-minded approach to criticism. More broadly, its response to the US in recent days show how doltish the regime is.

The most widely reported incident is a tense and very public standoff between US Ambassador Glyn Davies and the junta’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

The junta became agitated when an AFP report that stated that the US had “condemned Thailand’s arrest of an activist’s mother [Patnaree Chankij] for allegedly insulting the royal family in a one-word Facebook post.”

This report was widely carried internationally and in Thailand. The junta became incandescent over the use of the word “condemn.” The National News Bureau & Public Relations propaganda site declared on behalf of the junta:

The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has thoroughly reviewed the United State’s Department of State’s stance on Thailand’s Article 112 and Computer Crime Act and finally found that the US agency has not released any official statement on the matter.

The Foreign Ministry’s Information Department announced that the US Department of State’s spokesperson has not used the term “condemn” during a press conference as mistakenly reported by some news agencies.

Besides, the Information Department said the Thai government has affirmed that it respects the international principles of human rights and values all freedoms and that its actions have been taken only to maintain stability and unity in the Kingdom in the face of the country’s reform plans.

The last paragraph repeats lies and propaganda propagated at the UN.

The first paragraph is at best a deliberate mirepresentation or just another junta lie. US State Department officials have described  “grave reservations about the practice of using military courts to try civilians [and] … utilizing the lèse majesté laws in a way that is unprecedented…” and, after several years of not doing so, the Human Rights Practices Report for 2015 lists lese majeste victims as political prisoners.

The second paragraph is the main point of the report. The junta’s claim is that the word “condemn” was not used, and so the problem in the relationship can be ignored. In fact, the AFP report stated clearly the words used by the State Department:

“These actions create a climate of intimidation and self-censorship,” said Katina Adams, the State Department’s spokeswoman for east Asia and the Pacific.

“We are troubled by the recent arrests of individuals in connection with online postings, and the detention of Patnaree Chankij.

“The arrest and harassment of activists and their family members raise serious concerns about Thailand’s adherence to its international obligation to protect freedom of expression.”

That seems clear enough. Does this add up “condemn”? Various definitions suggest that condemn is a reasonable description of the US statement. Synonyms are: censure, criticize, castigate, attack, denounce, deplore, decry, revile, inveigh against, blame, chastise, berate, upbraid, reprimand, rebuke, reprove, reprehend, take to task, find fault with, give someone/something a bad press, etc.

Foreign Minister Don’s impatient intervention makes things far worse and would have observers believe that the junta is unconcerned about the US. Yet the junta does seem to have a propaganda problem with the deterioration of the relationship with the US. So much of a problem that it has had the official propaganda agency concoct a story of US understanding.

The agency “reports” that General Prayuth Chan-ocha has “clarified to a representative of the United States that his administration complies with human rights principles and expressed gratitude for the country’s understanding of the Thai political situation.”

A reader could be confused by this claim. But who is this “representative”? The report states:

Adm Dennis Blair, Chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, paid a courtesy call on Gen Prayut at Government House for a discussion on several topics. Deputy Government Spokesman Maj Gen Weerachon Sukontapatipak, who accompanied Gen Prayut during the meeting, revealed that the premier assured Adm Blair of the government’s adherence to the law and human rights principles when making arrests and taking judicial proceedings against law breakers. He insisted that citizens are guaranteed full freedom of expression within the legal framework.

As for the national reform process, Gen Prayut confirmed that general elections will take place in 2017 as stipulated by the roadmap. He also gave details on the guidelines for various areas of reform and said any advice from the US would be welcome.

Maj Gen Weerachon pointed out that Adm Blair has extensive experience both in the military and the administrative branch and thus already has a clear picture of Thailand’s reform process. During the discussion, Adm Blair showed his awareness of political developments in Thailand as well as the reasoning behind the military takeover of the administration. He also expressed his confidence that the Prime Minister will be able to overcome all impending challenges.

Admiral Blair is not a representative of anything other than the privately-funded Sasakawa Foundation. He has no official role.In fact, Blair “resigned” from the Obama administration after “a tenure marred by the recent failures of U.S. spy agencies to detect terrorist plots and by political missteps that undermined his standing with the White House.”

And what standing does his Sasakawa Peace Foundation have? A good place to begin is the Wikipedia page for Ryoichi Sasakawa, its founder. On his death, an obituary in Britain’s Independent newspaper referred to him in these terms:

The last of Japan’s A-class war criminals has died, a nonagenarian multimillionaire. In the land where most people do their utmost to pass unnoticed, Ryoichi Sasakawa stood out as a monster of egotism, greed, ruthless ambition, political deviousness and with a love of the limelight equalled in his time only by his fellow right-winger Yukio Mishima.

He founded Japan’s fascist party before WW2 and remained an extremist rightist and hardline nationalist even after he was released after the war. His postwar reputation and wealth owed much to gambling and rightist connections, with some claims of links with organized crime and the CIA.*

A failed administrator, unrepresentative of anything other than a Foundation of dubious origins in the Japanese far right, seems a perfect fit for Thailand’s rightist military dictatorship. Certainly, as “diplomats,” the junta is a failure that misrepresents its activities internationally and nationally.

(*There is a curious link between Sasakawa and the monarchy, following this list of links: here, here, here and here.)

Update: Above we mentioned the problems the junta had had with the Chinese on the much-hyped railway project. Interestingly, yesterday The Nation had a story stating that the “project back on track.” What this seems to mean is that “Thailand to be sole investor.” This is quite a different project than that which was touted at a propaganda-like “ground-breaking” ceremony and signed MOU back in December 2015.





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.”