Tag Archives: Somchai

Thailand’s “unsubstantiated” police abuses

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Thailand’s representatives to the United Nations still cling to the outdated idea that if they turn up at a big get-together and make nice comments about how they cherish human rights, then everyone will think things are fine in the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

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Five years…

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Somchai Neelaphaijit. Still missing, still no one punished: March 12, 2004

We will not forget.

DOWNLOAD NEW BOOK: Reading between the lines, by Angkhana Neelaphaijit (Thai version available here)

Thailand’s rights reputation in the sewer

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(ชื่อเสียงของไทยด้านสิทธิเปรียบเสมือนอยู่ในท่อน้ำเสียแล้ว)

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

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

Another troublemaker missing in Thailand

The authorities in Khon Kaen probably did not like Kamol Laosophaphant. His campaign to expose corrupt council dealings over state railway land, among other things, reportedly had a group of police ready to beat him up just last year.

The 49-year-old delivery contractor told his family that he was worried for his safety. In January he took out a life insurance policy but did not let up his fight against the neighborhood “people with influence.”

Kamol, as it happened, had cause for concern. On Feb. 7 he went to the Baan Phai station to lodge one of a dozen criminal complaints that he was preparing against local officials. He never came back to his house only a few hundred meters away.

Kamol’s wife (pictured above holding his photo) and brothers say that the family had contact with him until around 11pm. His wife missed a call from his phone shortly after. Then the line went dead.

They lodged a complaint with the station the next morning, but it was not taken seriously. The day after that, they made another to the Crime Suppression Division. Yet although his car mysteriously turned up outside a hospital some 20 kilometers to the north a few weeks later, four months on they still don’t know where he went. Continue reading

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

March 12, 2004

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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