Tag Archives: National Human Rights Commission

Thai police put crime report before medical help

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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

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Thailand’s anti-human rights commission

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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

Thailand’s new rights commission is a joke

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(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

Court ignores facts of Sabayoi killings

A court has held that police and civilian officials who killed 19 young men in the far south of Thailand early on April 28, 2004, were acting in self-defense. The defendants said they shot the men because they had been under attack, and the Songkhla provincial court ruled in September that the policemen’s testimonies were consistent and believable.

To reach this finding, the court had to ignore the facts. Some of the evidence it heard but omitted from its verdict included the testimony of a national human rights commissioner. She told the judges that her agency had uncovered nothing to prove that the dead men, aged 18 to 34, had been carrying weapons. Nor was there any discernible damage to the Sabayoi market police post that had supposedly been assaulted. Continue reading

Saneh must now resign

(ให้ประธานคณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชนไทยลาออก)

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

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

A casualty of “war”

A lot of talk in Thailand these days is about the prospects for a new “war on drugs,” following on from the state-sponsored murders of people supposedly buying and selling amphetamines in 2003.

Although only a few killings have so far been reported in the weeks following the current prime minister’s and interior minister’s announcements that the war would resume, their enthusiasm for its methods does not seem to have been dampened by its manifest lack of success.

There is persistent argument about the numbers of persons killed and circumstances under which they died last time around. As there were few criminal inquiries and the scale of earlier killings was far beyond the capacity of human rights groups and the media to document fully, it is difficult to speak with certainty about what happened nationwide.

Instead, a better way to understand the mechanics of the “war” is to recall specific cases. In the last week or so a newspaper in Bangkok has been doing just this, publishing accounts of the dead and their relatives, such as that of Somjit Kayandee, who was shot in front of her family after visiting the local police station, and that of six northern men killed together in a pickup truck on their way home from an anti-drug meeting.

Another story published is that of Saman Thongdee, in 2003 a 47-year-old living with his partner of over twenty years, Charuayporn, and their two children in the big northwestern town of Tak.

Seven years earlier, Saman had been accused of dealing in drugs while working as a schoolteacher. He was transferred to an office job and had been investigated but let off. He had kept working in the new post.

But at dusk on April 9 of that year, a black sedan pulled up outside Saman’s house. At least two of its occupants shot him dead with pistols before driving away. Continue reading