Thailand’s representatives to the United Nations still cling to the outdated idea that if they turn up at a big get-together and make nice comments about how they cherish human rights, then everyone will think things are fine in the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 court in Thailand inched closer to its counterparts in neighboring Burma last week when it sentenced an anti-coup protestor to 18 years in prison. The Bangkok criminal court convicted Daranee Chanchoengsilapakul on three counts of lese majesty arising from statements she made in a rally to support the ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. In the speech, she connected the 2006 military takeover to the palace, and drew parallels between events in her country and the fate of the monarchy in Nepal, which was abolished in 2008 after a popular uprising.
The charges were brought against Darunee following a complaint from Sondhi Limthongkul, the leader of the army-sponsored anti-Thaksin movement that occupied the prime minister’s offices for three months and the national airport for about a week last year. Neither he nor any of his cohorts have been brought to justice over those events, despite the massive criminality involved, including assaults and alleged murders, wanton vandalism, and theft of public and private property. While targeting opponents for alleged crimes of thought and speech, Sondhi and allies continue to spread their own vitriol through a variety of broadcast and Internet media.
The judges made little pretense of conducting the trial fairly. Continue reading
Posted in censorship, courts, crime, human rights, Jurist, protest, rule of law, Thailand, UN
Tagged Bangkok Criminal Court, Chanchoengsilapakul, Da Torpedo, Darunee, Shinawatra, Sondhi, Thaksin
It took five years for a court in Songkhla, southern Thailand, to hold an inquest into the deaths of 78 men after they were detained along with over 1,000 others outside the Tak Bai police station in October 2004. But for all the time spent and witnesses heard, the findings [in English] handed down on May 29 obscured as much as they revealed.
By law, the inquest was supposed to identify who died, where, when, how, why and thanks to whom. The judges omitted most of what the court was told about the how and why, and failed to name any specific responsible persons in their closing remarks.
They also tried to excuse those involved by pointing out that they had been performing their duties under difficult circumstances, even though this is a matter for a trial court to consider, not one for a post mortem inquiry.
While the court failed to do the minimum expected of it under law, it could not deny that the 78 men had all suffocated to death in trucks en route to an army camp. That the men were stacked onto one another like pigs being taken to slaughter slipped from the narrative, but that they were in military custody and died of unnatural causes is now on the judicial record. Continue reading
Posted in army, courts, extrajudicial killing, human rights, military, rule of law, Thailand, UPI
Tagged Krue Se, Sabayoi, Shinawatra, Songkhla, Tak Bai, Thaksin
As troops and antigovernment protestors clashed on Bangkok’s streets again this week, a furious battle also played out in the media over casualties. Government spokespersons and army officers insisted that bullets had not been fired into the crowds. Their opponents said the opposite.
Soldiers had at times pointed their weapons at people, and some of the red-shirted demonstrators had been shot, but there were few reliable details of who was hurt, how, where and why.
Staff at the prime minister’s office blamed Red Shirts on motorbikes for a melee with local residents that left two dead. Other sources were less certain about the identities of the protagonists, but doubtful voices were drowned out as local outlets obligingly reported the official version. Meanwhile, emailed narratives of battles around the city had it that the Red Shirts’ rivals were in some areas backing up the army, but there was no immediate evidence to support this claim either.
What all this goes to show is not which side is to blame for the street blockades and bloodshed of the last few days, but how difficult it has become to believe Thailand’s media. Since 2006, when domestic news agencies and many overseas ones fell over each other to enthuse about the army’s latest power grab, the biases of newspapers, magazines and broadcasters have become more pronounced, their coverage more partisan, and their opinion-makers seemingly more sure of themselves even as things get less certain.
In normal times, the impoverished domestic journalism which has become a hallmark of Bangkok has made following current affairs there difficult; with the city under siege and a state of emergency declared, it has made following them all but impossible. Continue reading
Posted in army, censorship, human rights, journalism, military, politics, protest, Thailand, UPI
Tagged Abhisit, Bangkok, Bangkok Post, Hiriam Johnson, PAD, People's Alliance for Democracy, Prachatai, red shirts, Shinawatra, Thaksin, UDD, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, Vejjajiva, yellow shirts
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
The verdict to dissolve three parties in Thailand’s coalition government and ban the prime minister and his party executives from politics for five years is the latest in a series of increasingly surreal judgments that have brought the country’s senior judiciary to the center of its political mayhem. It follows a ruling by the Constitutional Court’s predecessor last May to terminate the party of the ousted Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, from which the newly-disbanded People’s Power Party was born. It also follows another unanimous ruling from the court this September to throw out the then-Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, for cooking on TV.
Like the cooking show verdict, the judges this time ruled on a narrow legal question under section 237 of the 2007 Constitution. According to this clause, any member of parliament found to have committed or abetted an offense under the electoral act, or contrary to any order or announcement of the Election Commission, shall be deprived of voting rights. These offences could be minor, may change from time to time with new orders from the commission, and do not even constitute criminal acts. But anyhow, if it can be shown that the party leader or any executive member knew about the offense and failed to do anything about it, then it is mandatory that the party is dissolved and its executive banned.
Imaginary scenarios for how a similar law might apply to other professions don’t need to be stretched very far to realize the section’s absurdity. Continue reading
Posted in army, courts, crime, Jurist, military, police, politics, protest, rule of law, Thailand
Tagged 2007 Constitution, Constitution Court, Constitutional Court, Election Commission, PAD, People's Alliance for Democracy, People's Power Party, PPP, Samak, Samak Sundaravej, section 237, Shinawatra, Sundaravej, Thaksin, Thaksin Shinawatra
Two years to the month since the army in Thailand launched its latest takeover of government, the proof of its success is in the mayhem and madness on the streets of Bangkok and the utter farce to which politics there has again descended.
On the one side is a prime minister who is as much an accident of history as a denier of it, a dinosaur politician who should by now have been extinct from public life, let alone leading it; a man who at times can hardly form a coherent sentence, let alone a coherent government.
He and the gaggle of Thaksinites that gathered around him in a rebranded party for last year’s ballot were at the time cast as saviors of the masses, come to take democracy back from the generals. They may have won the vote, but the army, which quietly shelved plans for its own candidates, had in the meantime moved the playing field.
On the other side is an alliance of people united in their hatred of the ousted prime minister, and increasingly, of anybody else connected to him; an alliance motivated to oppose the elected government’s plans to amend a Constitution that a military junta forced down the country’s throat.
It is also an alliance whose foremost demand on behalf of democracy is that it wants less of it, and that too at a time that the country already has less of it than it did before the army had its way in September 2006. Half of the 150 seats in the Senate are now appointees, and how many people know who they are or how they got there, let alone what they do?
That the whole parliamentary process is at its lowest ebb since the early 1990s is exactly what the generals and their backers intended. Although the coup was aimed at removing that manager and manipulator of party politics, Thaksin Shinawatra, and dismantling his network, he was just the embodiment of the main target: the party political system itself. Continue reading
Posted in army, constitution, dictatorship, human rights, military, politics, protest, Thailand, UPI
Tagged 1997 Constitution, Black May, May 1992, PAD, PPP, Samak, Samak Sundaravej, Shinawatra, Sondhi, Sondhi Limthongkul, Thaksin, Thaksin Shinawatra
(Der Rechtsstaat in Thailand)
The rule of law has been getting talked up in Thailand a lot since the former prime minister’s wife, Pojaman Shinawatra, lost a criminal case before a special bench of the Supreme Court, and her husband skipped both town and bail prior to a hearing against him too.
Amid the many editorials and headlines (Krungthep Turakit above: Thaksin, Pojaman flee), academic Michael Connors suggested that the verdict against Pojaman could bode well for a more robust rule of law. Newspaper columnist Chang Noi was effusive, declaring the verdict “a manifesto on behalf of the law.”
Thaksin even got in on the act himself, describing those pursuing his family through the courts as having “no concern for the legal system … or the universal rule of law” and claiming that he and his family are victims of “continuous injustice.”
While the former policeman’s complaints jar with his track record of getting things done any which way, the cases against him and his family do raise issues about how the rule of law needs to be understood and debated in Asia.
One of the main problems besetting talk about rule of law in the region is that it continues to be dominated by writers and thinkers living elsewhere in the world, where courts, police and administrative offices work more or less as expected.
These persons usually take separated powers, constitutionalism and representative government for granted. Some publish commentaries on high-profile cases that are in fact relevant to the society as a whole, because their law and bureaucracy are relatively coherent and systematic.
Others go into the finer points of whether or not it is possible for judges to consistently and impartially apply law, and whether the rule of law should be governed by morals or procedures.
But little if any of this is relevant to people in most parts of Asia. Continue reading
Posted in army, courts, crime, extrajudicial killing, human rights, military, other countries, police, politics, rule of law, Thailand, torture, UPI
Tagged Amporn Kochabang, Asia, Chang Noi, Charnchai Promthongchai, Department of Special Investigation, DSI, Interior Ministry, Krue Se, Mae Hong Son, Michael Connors, Ministry of Interior, Phra Supoj, Pojaman, Saraburi, Shinawatra, Thaksin, Urai Srineh, Uthai Boonom
It has been four years since Somchai Neelaphaijit disappeared; four long years of heartbreak for his family, four years of unanswered questions.
Somchai did not disappear by accident, but by force. Yet despite wide publicity and persistent efforts to hold the culprits to account, Thailand’s criminal justice system has utterly failed a person who in life had not failed it.
Somchai was a lawyer with a keen sense of justice, and a good one at that. He took on cases that others wouldn’t touch, cases that didn’t earn him any friends in high places. He successfully defended accused terrorists and separatists. He set up a free legal aid service and received a national award in acknowledgement of his work.
Prior to disappearing, Somchai met with five young men in police custody who said that they had been tortured. According to letters that he prepared on their behalf, they had been kicked, electrocuted and urinated upon. One had been hanged from the hook of a toilet door and hit on the head with a lump of wood.
On March 11, 2004 Somchai publicly accused the police of torture and said that he would take the case to the highest levels. Coming from him, this was no idle warning. Someone took it seriously. Continue reading
Posted in courts, crime, disappearance, human rights, police, rule of law, Thailand, torture, UPI
Tagged Amornvivat, Amornwiwat, Crime Suppression Division, CSD, Department of Special Investigation, DSI, Neelaphaijit, Shinawatra, Sombat, Sombat Amornvivat, Sombat Amornwiwat, Somchai, Somchai Neelaphaijit, Thaksin, Thaksin Shinawatra, Tourist Police
“Several times over the past 15 months Thaksin has vowed that he has no future in politics. It is hard to take his undertakings seriously. As my colleague at the ANU, Peter Jackson, wrote a few years ago, Thai public life operates according to a ‘regime of images‘ whereby there is no necessary correspondence between public stances and private manoeuvres. What counts in public is that the right thing is said at the right time. As usual, Thaksin is working the public imagery cleverly. He can afford to bide his time and present himself as a loyal servant returning to his beloved homeland. Of course, when the time comes for Thaksin to take on a more formal political role there will be those that protest about his dishonesty given his previous promises of retirement. But their charges will have little traction in the court of public opinion. That’s how the ‘regime of images’ works.”
– Andrew Walker, The return of the king, New Mandala
Interview with Samak Sundaravej, Prime Minister of Thailand
101 East, Al Jazeera, 9 February 2008
Your predecessor, Thaksin Shinawatra, was criticised for a pretty brutal campaign against Muslim fighters in southern Thailand. Many people who were innocent were caught up in that violence. Do you support his policies in southern Thailand?
Actually, he doesn’t mention any policy. The wrong that he committed, somebody says that… ahh… he says that it… ahh… it’s not quite so important mandate, and that’s all. That is what he mentioned.
But if we refer to Tak Bai, the Tak Bai incident, when many young Muslim men were beaten and rounded up and their bodies were stacked into trucks, many of them suffocated and died…
At Tak Bai.
Tak Bai? Ohh… You have heard about that incident? Did you? Continue reading
Posted in army, courts, extrajudicial killing, human rights, human rights groups, military, politics, rule of law, Thailand
Tagged 101 East, 6 October 1976, 6 Tula, Al Jazeera, Aljazeera, Bangkok, Chirmsak, Krue Se, Samak, Samak Sundaravej, Sanam Luang, Shinawatra, Sundaravej, Tak Bai, Thaksin Shinawatra, Thammasat, Thaskin
Officers of the Kalasin District Police Station in northeastern Thailand are alleged to have abducted and murdered dozens of people in the last few years. The actual number could exceed 100; many more bodies have been found, but were not properly examined and documented before being cremated.
Among the victims, Kietisak Thitboonkrong and Krischadol Pancha disappeared from the police station within days of each other in July 2004, shortly after the official close of the first “war on drugs” declared by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Kietisak was 17, Krischadol, 15. Both had been accused of robbery and brought to the police station. Both were granted bail and the grandmother of each had come to the station to collect the boy but was told that he had been released and to go and wait.
Neither ever came home. Kietisak was found in a neighboring province, tortured to death and strung up in a bad attempt at a simulated suicide. Krischadol was not found. Continue reading
Posted in crime, disappearance, extrajudicial killing, human rights, police, rule of law, Thailand, torture, UPI
Tagged Chiang Noi, Culture Ministry, Department of Special Investigation, DSI, Kalasin, Kietisak, Kietisak Thitboonkrong, Krischadol, Krischadol Pancha, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Pancha, Shinawatra, Thaksin, Thaksin Shinawatra, Thitboonkrong, war on drugs