MARUAH letter on situation in Thailand

MARUAH recently wrote a letter to the Thai ambassador in Singapore, and also the Thai representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission On Human Rights, regarding the current situation in Thailand.

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6th June 2014

HE. Marut Jitpatima
Ambassador
Royal Thai Embassy Singapore

HE. Dr Seree Nonthasoot
Representative of Thailand to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission On Human Rights (AICHR)

Respect For Human Rights And Democratic Values Is Paramount 

MARUAH, a human rights organisation in Singapore, expresses grave concerns over the manner in which human rights are being gradually but systematically eroded since the military takeover and also over the suspension of the Thai Constitution. The imposition of martial law allows the military sweeping powers to restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. 

Since the coup on 20th May 2014, the military leadership in the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC) has undermined the freedom of the press, taken over radio and television stations and significantly restricted the expressions of the print and broadcast media. The military has also threatened to close down social media platforms and banned the reporting of information that is critical of the coup. MARUAH’s concerns on this issue are two-fold:  – firstly it denies the Thai people access to crucial information that will allow them to make informed decisions about the future of politics in their country; and secondly, in preventing the media from reporting any news that is critical of the coup, it has curtailed the media’s ability to act as watchdog.

MARUAH is also deeply concerned about the manner in which outspoken members of Thai civil society, the academia and political parties, are being rounded up and ordered to report to the junta. There are reports of mass arrests and detentions, extending even to the family members of activists and government critics. Many of these detainees are being held at undisclosed locations and are not being allowed to communicate with their families or consult with lawyers. In addition the NPOMC has issued orders that lese-majeste cases and any violation of the military’s order be dealt with internally, by military courts instead of civil courts. These actions cast doubts on the transparency of these proceedings, place limits on access to justice for those involved and collectively demonstrate a disregard for Thailand’s obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, that Thailand acceded to in 1996.

These are obligations that are norm-setting to ensure that there are no unlawful arbitrary arrests and detentions without trial.

Public demonstrations, assemblies and protests have also been outlawed.

And with no independent judicial oversight or avenue of redress for those whose rights have been infringed upon, the military effectively has unlimited powers and immunity for their actions.

Against this backdrop, it is deeply worrying to hear Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army, General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s recent statement that the military would resort to violence if political protests flared up again. This raises concerns about the general safety and security of the Thai people.

With significant restrictions on freedom of assembly, the curtailing of free speech and the mass arrests and detentions, the military junta’s actions can significantly undermine Thailand’s prospects of returning to democratic rule in the near future.

As the Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, MARUAH closely follows developments in ASEAN and human rights issues in the region. On this matter we support the Thai people in their struggle for democracy and call for a return to democracy and a respect for human rights.

We also say that the Thai people have undergone a rather difficult time in the last few years. But they have remained stoic in their pursuit of democracy and their understanding of diversity in views. We say it is a shame if their determination to resolve their political dilemmas has resulted in a military takeover in violation of the Thai Constitution; without any clear mandate on period of occupation, purpose or an indication to work in a collaborative manner with the people, the political parties and the business community, to bring Thailand back to a shining example of democracy in this region.

As Thailand’s Ambassador in Singapore and as Thailand’s AICHR representative, we urge for a course of action that can bring martial law to an end and for a Council of Representatives to be put in place to govern the people till negotiations between the opposing political factions and the people are resolved, to unite people in their pursuit and respect for democracy.

We have the utmost respect for the people of Thailand in standing up for their beliefs.

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