Are Sanctions Looming for Thailand
HUMAN rights in Thailand are in “free fall” with the government of General Prayut Chan-o-cha severely repressing fundamental rights and freedoms since the coup last May, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its annual World Report 2015.
“Military rule has sent human rights in Thailand into a free fall, with no sign that the promised democratic transition will happen any time soon,” Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, said. “The junta is using draconian martial law powers to prosecute dissenters, ban political activity, and censor the media.”
Unlike previous years, the report for the first time was not released at a press conference in Bangkok.
Sunai Phasuk, a senior Thai researcher at HRW, told The Nation the decision not to hold a press conference detailing the human rights situation in Thailand was due to the current environment under martial law.
“If we want to hold a press conference we must ask for permission from the National Council for Peace and Order [NCPO] first. We don’t want to set a precedent,” Sunai said.
“In the end they wouldn’t give a permit, anyhow, and it would be tantamount to recognising their authority.”
Sunai said the report was available on the Internet, with a Thai-language version available late yesterday.
He said the fact that a media report organised by the Thai Journalists Association in conjunction with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation had had its scheduled release yesterday cancelled indefinitely by the NCPO was further proof of the restrictions now in place.
The HRW report criticised Prayut and the NCPO for functioning without accountability and enjoying impunity for “abusive acts”.
“The junta has largely banned political activity, has carried out hundreds of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and has disregarded serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees,” it said.
It also cited the NCPO’s order to the media, social media and general public not criticise the junta as another example of rights being repressed.
“The NCPO ordered the print media not to publicise commentaries critical of the military. TV and radio programmes were instructed not to invite guests who might comment negatively on the situation in Thailand,” the report stated.
“The junta has blocked more than 200 websites – including the Thailand page on the Human Rights Watch website – as threats to national security.”
The report said there had been 14 new cases of lese majeste under the NCPO, adding that many of those charged were routinely denied bail and often jailed for many months while awaiting trial in the military court.
It also said the military and police had operated with impunity in the deep South.
“To date, not a single member of the security forces has been criminally prosecuted for serious rights abuses in Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala provinces. Separatists insurgents point to government abuses to recruit new members and justify their campaign of terror targeting officials and civilians, which has claimed more than 6,000 lives over the past 10 years.”
The Thai authorities had also imposed tighter restrictions on all refugee camps near the Myanmar border and intensified scrutiny of unregistered camp residents. These unregistered residents make up about 40 per cent of camp populations which “successive Thai governments have effectively blocked from being considered for refugee status, sparking fears in the camp of possible mass expulsions”.
Source: The Nation
“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire
The quote by Voltaire is without question one of the most profound quotes in support for freedom of speech you will ever read; like most military juntas such doesn’t fit in with their agenda for an illegitimate government can only ever function through fear and its ability to silence the masses.
General Prayut Chan-o-cha has been optimistic that the US would reduce Thailand’s Trafficking in Persons Report ranking from T3 to T2 or even T1; it was placed on T3, the highest possible ranking, after Thailand failed to address the on-going human rights abuses of the Royhingya and with the Human Rights Watch now having released its latest report all hopes of reducing the T ranking will be dashed.
Currently the military junta remains disgruntled over the recent meeting with Yingluck Shinawatra, the deposed Prime Minister, with Daniel Russel, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs and is now questioning why the US is interfering in Thailand’s internal affairs.
It could be argued that this wasn’t interference but rather merely a scheduled meeting with the legitimate government of Thailand; whilst General Prayut Chan-o-cha may not like it, it doesn’t alter the fact that his government has no legitimacy under international law.
Could things get worse for Thailand? The answer is yes; we’ve already seen the US cancel joint military exercises with Thailand and as General Prayut Chan-o-cha continues to refuse to lift martial law, restricts freedom of speech, uses the lese majeste to imprison dissidents, refuses to grant a democratic election and continues to abuse basic human rights it’s likely there will come a time in the near future where the US and indeed the UN will have little or no choice in placing sanctions on Thailand … such would almost certainly cripple the Thai economy if these sanctions included the export of motor vehicles, electronics and rice.
Democracy has always been in a fragile state in Thailand; predominantly because the people do not really understand what it is or how to achieve it. There remains little if any unity with the poor on the one side (Red Shirts) and the ruling elite backed by the monarch and military on the other side (Yellow Shirts).
There is a growing perception that Thailand is heading for civil war; we’ve certainly seen elements of it with the 2010 and 2014 Bangkok riots by both the Red and Yellow shirts … it appears that neither are able to find any middle ground which does not bode well for either the people or its economy in the long term.
The military junta continues its campaign of Peace and Happiness but this is being executed by silencing the press and preventing people in forming groups to peacefully protest … democracy for Thailand is a long way off and as long as a junta remains in place it will never see the light of day.
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