News / Asia

    Amnesty International, Thai Military Leaders Discuss Rights Concerns

    Protesters push Thai soldiers with shields during an anti-coup demonstration in Bangkok, Thailand, May 25, 2014.
    Protesters push Thai soldiers with shields during an anti-coup demonstration in Bangkok, Thailand, May 25, 2014.

    Amnesty International says a team of four from its headquarters in London traveled to Thailand to research the human rights situation in the kingdom following the May 22 coup.

    The non-governmental organization’s investigators, who were in Thailand for nine days this month - from July 9 to 18 - met with a deputy chief of staff of the army, representing the National Council for Peace and Order.  The NCPO is the ruling military entity that seized power from the caretaker civilian government.

    Amnesty International spokesman Olof Blomqvist says the human rights organization appreciated the willingness of the junta to engage with
    its representatives and answer their questions for an upcoming report.

    “We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Thailand since the military takeover," Blomqvist explained. "And in this report that is coming out over the next few weeks I think we will spell out those concerns more clearly. 

    "And we will also have some strong recommendations towards the NCPO that we will hope that they will take on board on how they can better fulfill their international human rights obligations," he added.

    Thailand’s state run news agency (NNT) characterizes the meeting as providing Amnesty International with a “better understanding of the situation in Thailand” and said the organization’s representatives “became more positive towards the operation of the NCPO with regard to human rights.”

    FILE - Thailand's Army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, arrives at the Royal Thai Army Club in Bangkok, Thailand.FILE - Thailand's Army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, arrives at the Royal Thai Army Club in Bangkok, Thailand.
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    FILE - Thailand's Army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, arrives at the Royal Thai Army Club in Bangkok, Thailand.
    FILE - Thailand's Army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, left, arrives at the Royal Thai Army Club in Bangkok, Thailand.

    Amnesty and other organizations have expressed concern about the military’s crackdown on migrant workers from neighboring countries: Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.  Fears among foreign laborers, after the coup, prompted a hurried temporary exodus by more than 100,000 Cambodians.

    The junta has also faced international criticism for repression of Thai citizens under a continuing period of martial law.  Military decrees have imposed serious restrictions on rights and as well as freedom of expression by academics, journalists and members of the public.

    Hundreds of Thais have been summoned for interrogation and detained. Most have been released after about one week in custody.

    May 22 coup

    The coup occurred following an extended and sometimes violent period of political instability.

    The electorate has been polarized for more than a decade.

    Royalists among the Bangkok middle class and elite, including the so-called yellow shirts, have strongly opposed the countryside red shirt majority that in every election this century has propelled into the prime minister’s seat candidates supported by billionaire businessman Thaksin Shinawatra.

    FILE - Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.FILE - Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
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    FILE - Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
    FILE - Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

    He was deposed as prime minister in a coup in 2006.  His younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was forced out of the same job this year shortly before the military takeover.

    Interim charter

    The junta last week unveiled an interim charter after abrogating the country’s constitution.  It says it plans to write a new permanent constitution soon and appoint a legislature, which will include military officers.

    Army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has said he hopes national elections can be held around October next year, after he carries out sweeping political and other reforms.

    Coup leaders and its supporters have made no secret of their desire to create a new political system that will permanently eradicate the influence of the Shinawatra clan.


    Steve Herman

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

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    Comment Sorting
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    by: lone eagle from: Bangkok, Thailand
    July 30, 2014 12:33 AM
    On October 29, 1996 Thailand formally accepted the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The only country to date that after having accepted the ICCPR and now wishing to withdraw from the ICCPR is North Korea, which is understandable since they have never implemented it since having acceded to it in September 1981. However there is no withdrawal provision in the ICCPR unless all members of the UN allow North Korea to do so, which is very doubtful. The Thai junta's conundrum is that since Thailand is a party to the ICCPR, how can it draft a constitution that is a violation of the ICCPR, legally they can not. Once Thailand is a party to the ICCPR it can not withdraw without the consent of the other UN members, which is slim to none, and Slim left town. As a result of Thailand in 1996 becoming a party to the ICCPR a 1997 Thai constitution was promulgated, commonly called The People's Constitution in Thailand. Part 1, Article 1 of the ICCPR states "All peoples have the right of self-determinaton. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development." In the 1997 Thai constitution Chapter 1, Section 3 "The sovereign power belongs to the Thai people............." which is a reflection of the ICCPR's Part 1, Article 1. In July 1998 Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party was established and with over 40% of the votes Thaksin became the PM in 2001 and being reelected in 2005 with over 56% of the vote and again being reelected in 2006 with 61% of the vote. Thaksin's program was populist by appealing to indebted farmers, a 30 baht per day hospital scheme, debt moratorium for farmers, a microcredit development fund, and an OTOP program to support locally made and marketed projects. None of this would have been possible without Thailand accepting the ICCPR in 1996 that allowed for the 1997 Thai constitution to be promulgated. However after the September 2006 coup Thaksin was ousted and the 1997 constitution scrapped. In a August 2007 referendum over 56% of Thai voters approved the 2007 constitutional draft which differed little from my reading of both the 1997 and 2007 Thai constitutions. On May 22nd the junta scrapped the 2007 constitution and on July 22nd replaced the 2007 constitution with an interim constitution which is to last one year. The Junta and their Bangkok elite supporters are in a difficult situation. How to promulgate a constitution that can disenfranchise voters who supported PM Yingluck and her party so that Bangkok’s elite can continue to dominate politically and economically Thailand without fostering the conditions for a civil war or as been already discussed in Thailand secessionist sentiment in Thailand’s Northern region?

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