Tag Archives: Angkhana Neelaphaijit

Thailand’s rights commission in limbo

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

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Consistently counter-productive

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Extracts from a new report: Human Rights under Attack, by the Working Group on Justice for Peace, Thailand

One policy that has been consistently counter-productive is the government’s reliance on poorly trained, ill-disciplined para-military forces and civilian militias. Although they have a long-standing history in Thailand, since 2004 their strength in the South has been increased massively. There is a confusing multiplicity of groups – the paramilitary rangers, an interior ministry force known as the Volunteer Defence Corps, several loosely supervised village volunteer forces and an unknown number of smaller sectarian militias – added to the regular army, police and border patrol police. The largest armed force in the South is a civilian militia consisting of Village Defence Volunteers recruited under the Internal Security Operations Command and the Village Protection Force recruited under Queen Sirikit’s direction tasked with protecting Buddhist communities. Continue reading

Police to stand between themselves & their targets

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Under a visionary new scheme, victims of police torture and the families of persons killed and abducted by police in Thailand are also to get protection from… yes, other police! They include Angkhana Neelaphaijit (above), wife of abducted human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, who has said that she would rather fend for herself. Continue reading

Pat prescriptions don’t correct abuse

A leading international human rights group released a report on Thailand a couple of weeks ago. The report was accurate, yet it said nothing new. The contents were unoriginal. The recommendations were predictable: that the government should join international treaties, make new domestic law, investigate and prosecute perpetrators of abuse, compensate victims, support human rights defenders and cooperate with the United Nations.

These are all good things to recommend. The problem is that they made no contribution to the debate on human rights in Thailand. They could have been written about any country by anybody sitting anywhere. What government shouldn’t comply with international law? Which perpetrators shouldn’t be prosecuted? What more can and must be said?

International organizations based in London, Geneva or New York have proved inadequate for the task of assessing and reporting on the increasingly complex human rights problems across Asia. Shallow diagnoses, spotty campaigns and oversimplified remedies have contributed little and sometimes caused harm.

Continue reading