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Thailand Lashes Out Against UN Criticism of Human Rights Record - 2003-05-28

Thailand's prime minister said a U.N. envoy's criticism of his country's human rights record is unjustified. Ghe Thai government is especially sensitive to criticism because of its recent crackdown on drug dealers.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said U.N. human rights envoy Hina Jilani was biased and made unfair remarks in her assessment of Thailand's human rights record.

Mrs. Jilani, a lawyer from Pakistan, has just completed a nine-day visit to Thailand, meeting with human rights activists and government officials.

She described a growing sense of insecurity among human rights workers and non-governmental organizations since Mr. Thaksin's government came to power in early 2001. Among other issues, she pointed out that the government is prosecuting many activist groups for holding protests and pressuring some human rights organizations to close their offices.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow said her comments are out of step. "We think this does not really reflect the situation here. We believe that NGO's [non-government organizations] are still operating very freely in Thailand and the right of protest is very much respected in Thailand," he said.

Mrs. Jilani also raised concerns over Thailand's recent crackdown on drugs, which left more than 2,000 people dead. The government said most of the victims were killed by rival drug gangs trying to silence potential informers.

Human rights groups and Thai news media have accused the government of sanctioning a policy of extra-judicial killings.

Mr. Thaksin said the U.N. envoy should assess Thailand's rights record against the performance of other United Nations members. The government, he said, would bow to no one.