Thailand’s representatives to the United Nations still cling to the outdated idea that if they turn up at a big get-together and make nice comments about how they cherish human rights, then everyone will think things are fine in the land of smiles.
Not surprisingly, they are unhappy when other people tell a different story. So last March, when the Asian Legal Resource Centre addressed the U.N. Human Rights Council concerning Thailand, they weren’t at all pleased.
The Hong Kong-based group told the council that the police are the top abusers of human rights in Thailand, for which they enjoy impunity. The center did not make this statement frivolously. It has for years worked closely with people in the country on dozens of cases that speak to this fact, and it is aware of and has documented hundreds more. Many cases it cannot publicize because to do so would put lives at risk.
Notwithstanding, the government representative, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, claimed that the center’s remarks were “unsubstantiated.” Although his defense of his country’s record was not in itself surprising, the vehemence of his response was remarkable given the piles of evidence to the contrary which groups have accumulated and presented to international bodies over the last decade.
This week the center had a chance to rebut his claim. Continue reading
Posted in human rights, human rights groups, police, Thailand, UN, UPI
Tagged ALRC, ASEAN, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Ayutthaya, Human Rights Committee, Human Rights Council, Kalasin, Neelaphaichit, Neelaphaijit, Phuangketkeow, Shinawatra, Sihasak, Somchai, Thaksin, war on drugs
A television station in Thailand broadcast an interview early last month with Nuch Phosri (above), a mother who is raising two sons alone on a meager income. Nuch is having an especially hard time because one of her sons is paralyzed. But he wasn’t born that way. He was shot.
Nuch’s boy, Virjit Sriraksa, was riding home from his job as a guard at an air force facility in Phitsanulok on June 24 last year, when some teenagers came up to him on another motorcycle. They goaded the 19-year-old, perhaps because of his uniform.
Then there was an exploding sound. Virjit thought it was a firecracker. Stunned by the sound he kept riding until he fell from the bike. Blood was seeping from holes in his neck and shoulder where 17 shotgun pellets had penetrated.
So far it is a distressing story of a senseless gang attack. Then the police arrived. They took Virjit to a hospital, as would be expected. Then, Nuch says, despite a doctor’s request that the young man be admitted, the police insisted on taking him back to do a crime scene report. Continue reading
Posted in crime, human rights, human rights groups, police, poverty, Thailand, UPI
Tagged MCOT, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Nuch, Phitsanulok, Phosri, Sriraksa, VIP, Virjit
A little over a week ago, the Bangkok Post reported that a special inquiry unit under Thailand’s Justice Ministry had asked the public prosecutor to lodge charges against six police officers for allegedly torturing a man in their custody.
The police in Ayutthaya, near Bangkok, hooded Ekkawat Srimanta and beat him all over his body to force him to confess to a robbery that he did not commit. Then they repeatedly electrocuted his genitals and groin.
Unlike many victims of police torture in Thailand, Ekkawat survived. And unlike most, he was released shortly afterward and admitted to hospital. The next day, photographs of his damaged body were published in major dailies. Senior officers rushed to his bedside, pretended that they cared if he lived or died, and made phony promises to look into things.
All that was five years ago. What happened since demonstrates the utter failure not only of the government of Thailand but also of its society to come to terms with the blight of torture, or do anything much about it. Continue reading
Posted in censorship, human rights, human rights groups, police, Thailand, torture, UPI
Tagged Ayutthaya, Bangkok Post, CAT, Convention against Torture, Department of Special Investigation, DSI, Ekkawat, Srimanta
Despite concerns from human rights defenders at home and abroad, Thailand’s upper house on May 1 approved the seven nominees for the country’s National Human Rights Commission. The seven consist of a top cop, a judicial administrator, a civil servant, an industrialist, an academic, a former senator and a road safety advocate.
Only the ex-senator and academic have experience and knowledge to warrant their appointments, although critics observe that both also are tainted by their links with an army-installed government after the 2006 coup. The civil servant is a social worker who has some idea about children’s and women’s rights. The other four have no clue.
The policeman says that due process in some cases should be balanced with crime control, like in the country’s restive south. As a representative of Thailand’s preeminent agency for human rights abuse, he is now situated to block inquiries into security forces that abduct, torture and kill people on this pretext, be they near the Malaysian border or anywhere else.
The court administrator counts his human rights experience as having been involved in the drafting of a number of constitutions, including a couple written for the benefit of military dictators. He also reckons that he contributed to verdicts favorable to rights, although this is an odd and unsupportable claim from someone whose role is not supposed to include telling judges how to decide cases.
The road safety guy seems unaware that the body to which he has been appointed is a human rights commission, not a rights and duties commission, as he has so far been unable to talk about one without remarking on the other.
The businessman describes human rights as a tool for international groups to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, such as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency backing the spiritual group Falun Gong to cause trouble for China. He also says that other countries are violating the rights of Burma’s military regime by imposing sanctions. And that’s not even the start of it.
A more ugly lot of rights commissioners would be hard to find. But now they’re in, can anything be done to get them out again? Or is Thailand saddled with an anti-human rights commission for the next six years? Continue reading
Posted in constitution, courts, human rights, human rights groups, Thailand, UN, UPI
Tagged 2007 Constitution, AHRC, Asian Human Rights Commission, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Paris Principles
(คณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชน ชุดใหม่ ของประเทศไทย เป็นเรื่องตลก)
This week the Asian Human Rights Commission issued three open letters on the selection of candidates for the new National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. The regional body has warned that if the Senate goes ahead and accepts the seven current nominees then the commission may cease to meet international standards, causing it to lose its status before the United Nations.
The seven candidates have been thrust forward after a hurried selection process about which almost no one in Thailand knows anything. The process began only in March after a long delay. It is set to be completed Friday, when the country’s upper house of military and bureaucratic yes-men will consider making the appointments. [UPDATE: The Senate on Friday elected all seven candidates to the NHRC. See further below.]
While few people in Thailand know that new commissioners have been nominated, few of the nominees know about human rights. Only one of the seven aspirants, Nirand Pithakwachara, formerly an elected senator under the repealed 1997 Constitution, has practical experience. Nirand has worked with environmental and citizens’ groups on a variety of issues, and was on Senate committees that inquired into rights abuses prior to the 2006 military coup.
The other six include Police General Vanchai Srinuwalnad, who states that he has conducted various human rights training courses but does not indicate from where he has obtained his knowledge on the topic; Constitution Court Secretary Paibool Varahapaitoorn, who claims to have participated in the making of judgments favorable to human rights, even though his role is administrative, not judicial; and Taejing Siripanich, head of a group that does good work in discouraging drunken driving but which has little if any relevance to the job for which he is applying.
The worst of the lot is Parinya Sirisarakarn, an industrialist who was a part of the undemocratic assembly that drafted the regressive 2007 Constitution. Not only does he have nothing to suggest himself to the post of rights commissioner, he was himself named in a 2007 NHRC investigative report as responsible for causing environmental damage in the northeast, where he holds a license to extract salt. Continue reading
Posted in human rights, human rights groups, Thailand, UPI
Tagged 2007 Constitution, AHRC, Amara, Amara Pongsapich, Asian Human Rights Commission, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Nirand, Nirand Pithakwachara, Paibool, Paibool Varahapaitoorn, Parinya, Parinya Sirisarakarn, Senate, Taejing, Taejing Siripanich, Vanchai, Vanchai Srinuwalnad, Visa, Visa Penjamano
Not so long ago, Thailand’s representatives at United Nations meetings sat quietly while counterparts from nearby countries like Burma and Cambodia were grilled on their human rights records.
Around the world, Thailand’s legal, political and social developments in the 1990s were greeted with applause, and its people in Geneva could sit comfortably, confident that their country would be held up as an example of somewhere with an improved record, even as their neighbors were being singled out for the opposite reason.
How times have changed. This week, the Asian Legal Resource Center submitted a statement to the Human Rights Council (above) that has painted the bleakest picture yet of denied rights and declining rule of law in Thailand during the past few years. [การเติบโตขึ้นของรัฐแห่งความมั่นคงภายในและการเสื่อมถอยของสิทธิมนุษยชนในประเทศไทย]
According to the Hong Kong-based group, Thailand is now in real danger of turning back into an internal-security state. The center’s indicators include the repeated overthrow of elected governments by antidemocratic forces, large-scale public criminal activity with impunity, Internet censorship and the lese-majesty witch-hunt, threats to human rights defenders, and forced repatriation and murder on the high seas. Continue reading
Posted in censorship, constitution, courts, disappearance, extrajudicial killing, human rights, human rights groups, military, police, politics, rule of law, Thailand, UN, UPI
Tagged ALRC, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Human Rights Council, Internal Security Operations Command, ISOC, Samak, Shinawatra, Somchai, Sundaravej, Tak Bai, Thaksin, Thammasat, Wongsawat
While governments and groups around the world made effusive statements and gave awards to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, the Asian Human Rights Commission struck a more somber note.
“The celebration,” the regional body said, “is a grim reminder that even after 60 years of the adoption of this great declaration, the gap between what is declared and what is actually achieved … is enormous. Both in the field of civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, people in Asia … have so little to celebrate.”
The downbeat mood was certainly shared in Burma. There, a handful of people belonging to local group Human Rights Defenders and Promoters gathered in Rangoon to mark the date.
Their International Human Rights Day event was muted by comparison to most around the world, and even compared to the one that they had held the year before. But that they got together at all demonstrated their commitment to what the day represents. Continue reading
Posted in Burma, dictatorship, human rights, human rights groups, Myanmar, UN, UPI
Tagged AHRC, Asian Human Rights Commission, High Commissioner for Human Rights, HRDP, Human Rights Defenders and Promoters, International Human Rights Day, International Year of Human Rights Learning, Interpol, Navanethem Pillay, UDHR, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Amid all the reporting about the latest chaos in Bangkok was a remark from a very dangerous man who usually knows something about who is pulling the strings and why.
According to General Pallop Pinmanee, his old classmate and protest leader Major General Chamlong Srimuang had planned his arrest on Monday, which preceded the fighting outside Parliament, in order to “try to create a situation like the Black May incident” of 1992.
Little wonder. Chamlong emerged a hero then, seemingly urging people not to provoke violence, being pulled from the thousands sprawling on the streets after the army moved in, and finally, kneeling before the king with the unelected prime minister to claim his place in history.
Although things are very different this time around, one constant is that Chamlong and his allies have planned for people to be killed. Sixteen years ago, the numbers of casualties were perhaps more than they expected. This week, judging from the tone of Chamlong’s inane statement about national duty before death, maybe they haven’t been enough.
One of the difficulties for human rights workers in Thailand during the last few years has been how to stay involved in pressing national affairs without getting caught up in the scheming of Chamlong and others like him who inhabit all sides of the current fracas. Continue reading
Posted in human rights, human rights groups, politics, protest, Thailand, UPI
Tagged Ambedkar, Black May, Chamlong, Jit, Pallop, Panlop, Phoumisak, Phumisak, Pinmanee, Poumisak, Pumisak, Srimuang
The chairman of Thailand’s official human rights body, Saneh Chamarik (above), on July 29 sent an open letter to the head of the United Nations expressing his agency’s most serious concern and dismay at a “blatant violation of human rights.”
As the writing of an open letter to the U.N. secretary-general is an unusual step for a statutory rights bureau, and given its strident tone, readers might expect that its topic would be one of utmost importance to the defense of human dignity in Thailand.
This would be mistaken. The purpose of the National Human Rights Commission’s letter was in actuality to lay blame for a puerile spat over an historic temple between the governments of Thailand and Cambodia with a U.N. committee.
According to Saneh, it is the World Heritage Committee, rather than politicking and self-interested nationalist leaders, that has somehow “endangered the lives of those who live along the Thai-Cambodian border.”
But Saneh does not stop there. He goes beyond any pretence of concern for the integrity of people residing nearby the contested site to lobby unashamedly for his own country’s claims.
“It seems that the views of the Thai side have been consistently overlooked,” he shrills, before concluding with a demand for an inquiry of some sort or another.
Official politeness will oblige a response, but it is hard to imagine the letter being received in New York with anything other than incredulity.
Although the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand has had its share of ups and downs and is certainly not alone among its peers in Asia in having missed the point of its work from time to time, other blunders pale in comparison to the disgrace caused with this outburst. Continue reading
Posted in human rights, human rights groups, other countries, politics, Thailand, UN, UPI
Tagged Cambodia, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Paris Principles, Preah Vihear, Saneh, Saneh Chamarik, Sri Lanka, World Heritage Committee
Thailand’s human rights agency has been in limbo since September 2006 when the army took power for the umpteenth time.
The National Human Rights Commission was by no means the coup’s biggest casualty. After all, it wasn’t shut down completely, like the parliament and one of the upper courts. But the commission has not fared well since then, and its confused and contradictory response to the military takeover in some ways typified its deeper problems.
Commissioners took dramatically different stands on the coup, its chairman refusing to condemn it, one member joining protestors on the streets, ultimately to be forced out by the junta’s unelected legislature. Some others were gently critical, while a number were neither seen nor heard.
There was also disagreement about whether or not the commission even had a mandate to keep operating, given that it was a body expressly established under a constitution that no longer existed.
These sorts of inconsistencies have dogged the commission’s work for the last few years. Continue reading
Posted in constitution, human rights, human rights groups, Thailand, UPI
Tagged 2007 Constitution, Angkhana, Angkhana Neelaphaijit, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Somchai, Somchai Homla-or