Category Archives: Human Rights Watch

Thailand: Draft Media Law Threatens News Reporting 2 Years in Prison for Reporting Without License

https://www.hrw.org/…/thailand-draft-media-law-threatens-ne…

For Immediate Release

Thailand: Draft Media Law Threatens News Reporting
2 Years in Prison for Reporting Without License

(New York, April 29, 2017) – The Thai government should immediately withdraw the latest draft law that seeks to tighten control of news reporting in Thailand, Human Rights Watch said today. The Media Reform Committee at the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA), whose members are appointed by the military junta, announced that the National Assembly will consider the bill on May 1, 2017.

The Bill on the Protection and Promotion of Media Rights, Freedom, Ethics and Professional Standards provides for a government-appointed national media council to regulate all media platforms – print, broadcast, or online. It also subjects anyone who directly or indirectly earns income from reporting news to the public without a license – and their company, agency, or organization – to up to two years in prison and a 60,000 baht (US$1,715) fine.

“The misnamed media rights and freedom law is the junta’s latest attempt to increase government interference and control of any independent news reporting,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Passage of this draft law would mean that reporters in Thailand will be constantly looking over their shoulder at a government-appointed panel that can have them jailed.” Continue reading

Human Rights Watch asks Thailand to “Fulfill Pledge to Criminalize Enforced Disappearance”

Thailand: Break Silence on Day of the ‘Disappeared’

Fulfill Pledge to Criminalize Enforced Disappearance

Repost of a Human Rights Watch report posted August 29.

Thailand’s government has failed to abide by its pledge to make enforced disappearance a crime under Thai laws, Human Rights Watch said today. August 30 is the United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

After years of advocacy by huamn rights groups, the Thai government on May 24, 2016, announced it would submit a bill to the national assembly that would criminalize torture and enforced disappearances. The government also said it would ratify theInternational Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. However, the government provided no timeframe for implementing these pledges.

“Another year has passed with the Thai government failing to address the grave problem of enforced disappearances in the country,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “As a result abusive officials continue to evade the punishment they deserve because Thai laws still don’t criminalize these cruel practices.”

Since 1980, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has recorded 82 cases of enforced disappearance in Thailand. Many of these cases implicated Thai officials – including the disappearances of prominent Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit in March 2004, and ethnic Karen activist Por Cha Lee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen  in April 2014 – but none have been successfully resolved. Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups working in Thailand believe that the actual number of such cases in Thailand is higher due to some families of victims and witnesses remaining silent for fear of reprisal, and because the government lacks an effective witness protection system.

During the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group in May 2016, the Thai government pledged to take steps to ratify the convention against enforced disappearance and align domestic legislation with Thailand’s international obligations and recommendations by UN treaty bodies.

As drafted, the yet to be introduced bill would be the first Thai law to recognize and criminalize torture and enforced disappearance – including for crimes committed outside Thailand – with no exemptions for political or security reasons. The draft law provides that government officials who commit enforced disappearance or torture could face up to 20 years in prison; up to 30 years if the enforced disappearance or torture leads to serious injury; and life imprisonment if death results. Any commanders or supervisors could face half of the penalty if they intentionally ignore the knowledge of enforced disappearance or torture committed by their subordinates.

“Enforced disappearance” is defined under international law as the arrest or detention of a person by state officials or their agents followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty, or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts. Enforced disappearances violate a range of fundamental human rights protected under international law, including prohibitions against arbitrary arrest and detention; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and extrajudicial execution. The UN General Assembly has repeatedly described enforced disappearance as “an offense to human dignity” and “a grave and flagrant violation” of international human rights law.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly urged Thai authorities – including in a January 14, 2016 letter to Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha – to take all necessary steps to end the practice of enforced disappearance. Of particular concern is the military’s ongoing use of secret detention facilities for dissenters and suspects in national security cases under section 44 of the 2014 interim constitution and the Martial Law Act of 1914.

“Thai authorities need to follow through on their pledges to end enforced disappearances, which devastates families as well as victims,” Adams said. “The families of Thailand’s ‘disappeared’ need to know that their government is doing all it can to bring to justice those responsible for this abhorrent practice.”

ฮิวแมนไรท์วอทช์เรียกร้อง ทรราช คสช.จัดออกเสียงประชามติตามหลักสากล

302

HRW จี้ไทยจัดประชามติตาม ‘มาตรฐานสากล’

by Sathit M.
22 มิถุนายน 2559


ฮิวแมนไรท์วอทช์เรียกร้องไทยจัดออกเสียงประชามติตามหลักสากล ชี้ระบอบทหารให้ข้อมูลด้านเดียวเชียร์ร่างรัฐธรรมนูญ จับกุมวัฒนา เมืองสุขหลังโพสต์โหวตโน ทั้งยังปิดกั้นนปช.เปิดศูนย์ปราบโกงฯ


เมื่อวันอังคารที่ 21 มิถุนายนตามเวลาท้องถิ่นนิวยอร์ก กลุ่มสิทธิมนุษยชน ฮิวแมนไรท์วอทช์ ออกแถลงการณ์เรียกร้องสหประชาชาติ และมิตรประเทศไทยของไทย ขอให้แสดงท่าทีอย่างชัดเจนว่า นานาชาติจะรับรองผลของการออกเสียงในวันที่ 7 สิงหาคมต่อเมื่อรัฐบาลทหารจัดประชามติตามมาตรฐานสากลเท่านั้น


แถลงการณ์ระบุว่า ประเทศไทยภายใต้รัฐบาลทหารจำกัดเสรีภาพในการแสดงออก และปิดกั้นการวิพากษ์วิจารณ์ร่างรัฐธรรมนูญซึ่งกำลังจะนำไปสู่การลงประชามติ


เมื่อสุดสัปดาห์ รัฐบาลทหารของไทยขัดขวางความพยายามของแนวร่วมประชาธิปไตยต่อต้านเผด็จการแห่งชาติ (นปช.) ที่จะเปิดศูนย์ปราบโกงประชามติในขอบเขตทั่วประเทศ โดยอ้างว่าขัดคำสั่งห้ามชุมนุมทางการเมืองของคณะรัฐประหาร


ย้อนไปเมื่อเดือนเมษายน ทางการจับกุมนายวัฒนา เมืองสุข แกนนำพรรคเพื่อไทยและอดีตรัฐมนตรี หลังจากเขาแสดงจุดยืนไม่รับร่างรัฐธรรมนูญฉบับนี้


ฮิวแมนไรท์วอทช์เรียกร้องรัฐบาลทหารไทย ขอให้ยุติการจำกัดเสรีภาพตามอำเภอใจ เปิดให้มีการอภิปรายร่างรัฐธรรมนูญ และจัดการลงประชามติอย่างเป็นธรรม


“รัฐบาลทหารของไทยใช้วิธีคุกคามและข่มขู่ เพื่อผลักดันให้ประชาชนออกเสียงยอมรับรัฐธรรมนูญที่จะสืบทอดอำนาจของทหาร” แบรด อดัมส์ ผู้อำนวยการประจำภาคพื้นเอเชียของฮิวแมนไรท์กล่าว “เหล่านายพลต้องการให้คนไทยหุบปาก เชื่อฟังคำสั่ง และออกเสียงเห็นชอบโดยไม่มีการโต้เถียง”


แถลงการณ์ระบุอีกว่า เวลานี้ คนไทยได้รับข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับร่างรัฐธรรมนูญเฉพาะจากฝ่ายที่มีจุดยืนสนับสนุนเท่านั้น นั่นคือ คณะกรรมาธิการร่างรัฐธรรมนูญที่คณะรัฐประหารตั้งขึ้น คณะกรรมการการเลือกตั้ง และหน่วยงานราชการ โดยไม่อนุญาตให้มีการจัดสัมมนาหรืองานสาธารณะใดๆที่จะอภิปรายร่างฉบับนี้

“สหประชาชาติและบรรดามิตรประเทศของไทยควรแสดงท่าทีต่อรัฐบาลในกรุงเทพฯอย่างชัดเจนว่า นานาชาติจะรับรองผลของการออกเสียงประชามติที่ดำเนินการตามมาตรฐานสากลเท่านั้น” อดัมส์กล่าว.


Source: Human Rights Watch

Thailand: Junta Bans Referendum Monitoring Generals Gag Criticism of Draft Constitution

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/06/21/thailand-junta-bans-referendum-monitoring

For Immediate Release:

Thailand: Junta Bans Referendum Monitoring

Generals Gag Criticism of Draft Constitution

(New York, June 21, 2016) – Thailand’s junta has forcibly blocked opposition efforts to monitor the nationwide referendum on a new constitution scheduled for August 7, 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, who chairs the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), indicated that anyone monitoring support for the referendum would be subject to arrest and trial before a military court.

Thailand’s junta should immediately revoke its arbitrary restrictions on free expression, permit open discussion of the draft constitution, and ensure a fair referendum, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Thai junta is using threats and intimidation to bludgeon people into supporting a constitution that would prolong military rule,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The generals expect the Thai people to just shut up, obey their orders, and approve their draft constitution without any discussion or debate.”

The government reacted strongly to a plan by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the “Red Shirts,” to set up referendum monitoring centers throughout the country. On June 18, General Prayut told the media: “I insist that those [referendum monitoring] centers can’t be opened. If they open, the authorities will arrest them [UDD members]. Gatherings of more than five persons are not allowed… Violation of the NCPO’s order will not be tolerated.”

The next day, police stormed the UDD headquarters in Bangkok and forced the cancellation of a ceremony to open the nationwide monitoring campaign, claiming that the event violated the junta’s ban on political gatherings. Elsewhere across Thailand, police and soldiers shut down the UDD’s referendum monitoring centers. Military officers summoned some local UDD leaders and ordered them not to engage in referendum monitoring activities or face charges before military courts.

International human rights law protects the rights of Thai people to express publicly their views on the draft constitution and to vote freely, Human Rights Watch said. But the conditions for the upcoming referendum hinder fair public discussion. For many Thais the only source of information about the draft constitution comes from the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Commission, the military, the Election Commission, and other government agencies – all of which have taken the position that the proposed constitution would benefit the Thai people. At the same time, the junta has refused to allow most seminars, conferences, and other public events that would encourage meaningful public discussion and debate about the draft constitution.

The NCPO has also actively suppressed the views of those who are openly critical of the draft constitution, Human Rights Watch said. On April 19, General Prayut said that opponents of the draft constitution “have no rights to say that they disagree… I don’t allow anyone to debate or hold a press conference about the draft constitution. Yet they still disobey my orders. They will be arrested and jailed for 10 years. No one will be exempted when the Referendum Act becomes effective. Not even the media.”

On April 18, the authorities arrested Watana Muangsook, a prominent Pheu Thai party member and former government minister, for posting commentary on his Facebook page that he would reject the draft constitution. The election commissioner of Thailand, Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, said on June 9 that more than 20 anti-junta activists performing in a music video urging voters to reject the draft constitution might be arrested. On June 18, General Prayut told the media that he had ordered the authorities to consider taking legal action against anyone who wears T-shirts or posts Facebook messages saying that they reject the constitution.

The junta’s intolerance for opposition to the draft constitution raises concerns of heightened repression prior to the referendum, Human Rights Watch said. Since the military coup in May 2014, the junta has broadly and arbitrarily interpreted peaceful criticism and dissenting opinion to be “false information” and a threat to national security.

Article 61 of the 2016 Referendum Act, which governs the referendum process, criminalizes “anyone who disseminates text, pictures or sounds that are inconsistent with the truth or in a violent, aggressive, rude, inciting or threatening manner aimed at preventing a voter from casting a ballot or vote in any direction or to not vote.” Violators face imprisonment up to 10 years, fines up to 200,000 baht (US$5,600), and loss of voting rights for 10 years. On June 6, the Office of the Ombudsmen filed a case with the Constitutional Court to rule on whether this article violates the right to freedom of expression endorsed in the 2014 interim constitution. A decision is expected by mid-July.

“The UN and Thailand’s friends around the world should publicly make clear to Bangkok that they will only recognize a referendum that meets international standards,” Adams said. “A free and fair referendum affecting Thailand’s future can’t be held when the rights of people to speak and exchange their views is suppressed.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Thailand, please visit:

www.hrw.org/asia/thailand

For more information, please contact:

In Bangkok, Sunai Phasuk (English and Thai): +66-81-632-3052 (mobile); or phasuks@hrw.org. Twitter: @SunaiBKK

In San Francisco, Brad Adams (English): +1-347-463-3531 (mobile); or adamsb@hrw.org. Twitter: @BradAdamsHRW

In Washington, DC, John Sifton (English): +1-646-479-2499 (mobile); or siftonj@hrw.org. Twitter: @johnsifton

 

Thailand: Drop Case Against Rights Defenders Military Criminal Complaint in Retaliation for Torture Report

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/06/09/thailand-drop-case-against-rights-defenders

For Immediate Release:

Thailand: Drop Case Against Rights Defenders
Military Criminal Complaint in Retaliation for Torture Report

(New York, June 9, 2016) – The Thai military should immediately withdraw its criminal complaints against three human rights defenders for reporting alleged torture by government security forces in southern Thailand, Human Rights Watch said today.

The military’s actions pose a serious threat to all human rights monitoring and reporting in Thailand at a time when rights abuses are widespread in the country, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Thai military is targeting human rights activists for reporting grave abuses and standing up for victims,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should order these criminal complaints withdrawn and do what it should have done in the first place: seriously investigate the report’s allegations of torture.”

It was recently reported that on May 17, 2016, the military’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4 – which covers national security operations in the provinces along the southern border – filed a criminal complaint in Yala against prominent human rights activists Somchai Homlaor, Pornpen Khongkachonkie, and Anchana Heemmina. The complaint accuses the three of criminal defamation under the Penal Code and publicizing false information online under the Computer Crimes Act.

The complaint makes reference to the February report by the Cross Cultural Foundation, Duay Jai Group, and the Patani Human Rights Network that documents 54 cases in which Thai security personnel allegedly tortured and otherwise ill-treated ethnic Malay Muslim insurgent suspects between 2004 and 2015. If charged and convicted, the activists face up to five years in prison or a 100,000 baht (US$2,850) fine.

Thai authorities have an obligation to ensure that all people and organizations engaged in the protection and promotion of human rights are able to work in a safe and enabling environment, Human Rights Watch said. The right to file complaints about torture and mistreatment and to have the complaint promptly and impartially investigated is ensured under international treaties to which Thailand is party, including the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders affirms the prohibition against retaliation, threats, and harassment of anyone who takes peaceful action against human rights violations, both within and beyond the exercise of their professional duties.

The Thai military has a longstanding practice of dismissing allegations of torture and other serious abuses committed by security personnel in the southern border provinces, Human Rights Watch said. Thai authorities have also frequently retaliated against reporting of alleged rights abuses by filing lawsuits accusing critics of making false statements with the intent of damaging their reputation.

The military’s attempted use of a criminal complaint to retaliate against human rights defenders is contrary to Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha’s recent promise to criminalize torture and fulfill Thailand’s international obligations against the practice, Human Rights Watch said.

Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment are prohibited under international treaties and customary international law. The Convention against Torture, which Thailand ratified in 2007, obligates governments to investigate and prosecute acts of torture and other ill-treatment committed by government officials. However, the Thai government has yet to prosecute successfully any security personnel for abuses against ethnic Malay Muslims alleged to be involved in the insurgency.

In June 2014, the UN Committee Against Torture recommended Thailand “should take all the necessary measures to: (a) put an immediate halt to harassment and attacks against human rights defenders, journalists, and community leaders; and (b) systematically investigate all reported instances of intimidation, harassment and attacks with a view to prosecuting and punishing perpetrators, and guarantee effective remedies to victims and their families.”

Separatist insurgents in southern Thailand called the Patani Freedom Fighters (Pejuang Kemerdekaan Patani,) part of the loose network of BRN-Coordinate (Barisan Revolusi Nasional, or National Revolution Front-Coordinate), continue to maintain a presence in hundreds of villages despite significant setbacks in recent years. The insurgents use state-sponsored abuses and heavy-handed counterinsurgency tactics to recruit new members and justify their campaign of violence and terror, which has claimed more than 6,000 lives since fighting erupted in January 2004.

“Atrocities by separatist insurgents provide no justification for abuses by Thai security forces,” Adams said. “Covering up torture and other crimes by targeting human rights activists only undermines efforts to improve the security situation in the deep south.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Thailand, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/thailand

For more information, please contact:
In Bangkok, Sunai Phasuk (English and Thai): +66-81-632-3052 (mobile); orphasuks@hrw.org. Twitter: @SunaiBKK
In San Francisco, Brad Adams (English): +1-347-463-3531 (mobile); or adamsb@hrw.org.Twitter @BradAdamsHRW
In Washington, DC, John Sifton (English): +1-646-479-2499 (mobile); or siftonj@hrw.org. Twitter @johnsifton

THAILAND: Protect human rights defenders in Loei

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AHRC-STM-041-2016

7 April, 2016

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND: Protect human rights defenders in Loei

A group of human rights defenders in northeast Thailand are facing death threats and a defamation case in court over their attempts to protect community resources against a gold mining operation. According to Rights Coalition and Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC), the Khon Rak Ban Kerd group of human rights defenders was formed in 2007 by villagers from six communities surrounding the mine in Wang Saphung District of Loei province, northeast Thailand, calling for a clean environment and opposing the mining operation conducted by the Tungkhum Company Limited since 2006.

On 29 May 2015, Tungkhum Company Limited was seeking 50 million Baht reparation with 7.5 percent interest in a civil defamation lawsuit from six Khon Rak Ban Kerd village leaders over a banner they erected at the entrance to their village. The banner read, “This Village Doesn’t Want Mining” and “Close the mine for the peace of mind of the community”.

On 24 February 2016, the six defendants went to court and testified that it was a decision by the villagers to put up the banner; no leader imposed the decision. The action was a result of people’s livelihoods being damaged by the activities of the mine. Furthermore, State agencies were approached to find a solution to rehabilitate the chemical contaminated areas of the village that affect their livelihoods. The villagers put up the banner precisely because the authorities have not been able to solve these problems. The placing of the banner is part of the people’s right to public participation, and informing the public and authorities about the issues facing them.

Additional testimony was given by expert witnesses, who noted the heavy metal contamination in soil around the gold mining area, which confirms the possibility of the presence of contaminants in food, plants and water, which may result from mining activities.

On 30 March 2016, Loei Provincial Court dismissed the charges against the six defendants. The court ruled that the villagers of Wang Saphung have been affected by the mining operations and they have the right to state their concerns against the company. However, Tungkhum Company Limited has the right to appeal the verdict, which must be done within 30 days. If they appeal the verdict, the six human rights defenders will continue to face judicial harassment—the use of the legal system to silence or intimidate them.

Furthermore, according to the legal team representing the villagers in the dispute with Tungkum Company Limited, the company earlier filed 19 lawsuits against human rights defenders in Loei province. Eight of these have been withdrawn in exchange for allowing the company to transfer some of the ores, which were already mined by the company. On 15 May 2014, the villagers in Ban Na Nong Bong, one of the villages in Wang Saphung, were beaten up by 300 armed men. A leader of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd group reported that they had also received death threats from people believed to be working for the company.

The AHRC is thus concerned about community human rights defenders in Loei province faced with judicial harassment due to promoting community rights in the region. In the recent case, the human rights defenders simply exercised their right to freedom of opinion and expression by erecting anti-mining signs within the village; these actions constitute the legitimate work of human rights defenders, which Thailand has a duty to protect as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The state’s failure to protect the defenders in Loei province will also serve to make other human rights defenders feel unsafe. The AHRC points out that Article 12(2) of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders outlines the obligation for the State to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

Meanwhile, the Tungkum Company Limited should drop all charges against the human rights defenders and end this outrageous legal campaign against fundamental freedoms, which is ultimately harmful to Thailand. The company should also be more mindful towards the environment and community that it is affecting.

The AHRC exhorts the government of Thailand to pay serious heed to the rights under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, as well as encourage all stakeholders to continue to raise concerns on the security protection of Loei villagers including the Khon Rak Ban Kerd group.

# # #

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.

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THAILAND: Letter to EU Commission regarding yellow card designation for Thailand

AHRC-FOL-002-2016
25 February 2016

An Open Letter from Rights Coalition forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

To,
Karmenu Vella
EU Commissioner for fisheries, maritime affairs and environment
European Commission
1049 Brussels
Belgium

Respected Commissioner Vella,

THAILAND: Letter to EU Commission regarding yellow card designation for Thailand

As the European Commission assesses whether Thailand has taken sufficient measures in the international fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU), we write to you to urge the Commission to maintain pressure on Thailand to build upon positive reforms that have recently been made to its fishing industry, ensure that they have longevity and address the structural problems that facilitate both IUU fishing and human rights abuses. The undersigned are part of a coalition of human rights, labour and environmental organizations that closely track human rights and labour conditions for fishers in the Thai seafood industry. We urge the European Union to extend the yellow card designation for at least another six-month period and ensure that Thailand implement a time-bound action plan that goes beyond legal reforms, focusing also on effective enforcement to ensure substantial, measurable progress toward legal, sustainable and ethical fisheries products and the protection of the rights of all workers in this industry.

The EU’s yellow card designation has already brought about significant legal reforms and changes in the ways that the Thai government monitors and seeks to manage marine resources and control fishing operations. But it is unclear whether effective enforcement of these new regulations will be achieved once the EU lifts immediate pressure. Thailand is somewhat infamous for producing documents and plans that, for various reasons, have little real-world impact on the problems they seek to address. Since 1963, with the first National Economic and Social Development Plan, Thailand has acknowledged depletion of fish stocks as a serious issue in need of comprehensive action to curb overfishing, but such action was only introduced in 2015. Similarly, Thailand has had national action plans in place to combat human trafficking since at least 2004, but labor trafficking on fishing vessels has continued unabated. We strongly urge and encourage the Commission to insist on demonstrated results in curbing illegal fishing practices and, importantly, combating human trafficking, bonded and forced labour across the entire seafood industry, before determining Thailand has made sufficient progress.

We commend the EU’s statement urging the Thai government to address human rights issues as well as IUU fishing practices in the wake of the most recent report from the Associated Press about forced labour among migrant workers toiling in factories in Thailand’s seafood export industry. The linkages between illegal fishing and forced labour are increasingly apparent. As fish stocks continue to be overfished, fishing vessels travel further and stay out longer at sea, with an associated increase in cost. In order to remain profitable, workers at sea are required to work longer hours and fish in remote areas with fewer visits to shore, increasing their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse, including forced labour. Thailand should be pressured to investigate and prosecute unscrupulous fleet owners and captains who are willing to break laws to make unsustainable practices seem profitable. Evidence suggests, and the Thai government recognizes, that the Thai fishing fleet has massive over-capacity and the depletion of fish stocks in Thai territorial waters due to over-fishing has led to a corresponding, on-going decline in catch per unit effort over a considerable period of time, which, in turn, has made some vessels operating in the Thai fleet simply unprofitable without the use of cheap, precarious labour.

At the end of 2015, Thailand passed a new Royal Ordinance and adopted some monitoring, control and surveillance measures that, if properly and fully enforced, could help it gain control over rampant human trafficking in the seafood sector. Increased labour inspections at sea under Royal Thai Navy coordination are an important addition to enforcement efforts, but we have yet to see whether the current arrangement will be an improvement over the previous system, which lacked interpreters to communicate with migrant workers and in some cases failed to provide an opportunity for fishers to speak with officials without being closely observed by the captain and other officers on board who could retaliate against them. Despite the existence of relatively detailed plans, the method of screening and identifying crew in need of assistance remains largely inadequate.

Despite claims that it is taking the human trafficking problem seriously, the Thai government has done little to hold government officials complicit in trafficking accountable for their crimes and demonstrate such action through well-publicized prosecutions, successful convictions and appropriate deterrent penalties. Police Gen. Paween Pongsirin, the lead investigator into government complicity in Rohingya boat people trafficked via trafficking camps on the Thai/Malaysia border, fled to Australia to seek asylum after receiving death threats and facing a transfer that would have placed him in Yala province, an area in which he contended the trafficking networks could easily harm him. Rather than protecting the investigator, senior Thai police are now considering charging him with criminal defamation.

Criminal defamation has often been used to silence those who speak out about human trafficking. Similarly, the Thai government did nothing to halt the Thai Navy from suing Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, two journalists with Phuketwan who reported on the trafficking of Rohingya, for criminal defamation and violating the Computer Crimes Act simply because they reproduced portions of an article by Reuters alleging naval forces’ involvement in trafficking. They were ultimately acquitted, although public prosecutors successfully applied for several extensions requesting more time for the Royal Thai Navy to appeal the acquittal, with no notice to the defendants. Government prosecutors also joined a Thai company to sue migrant worker rights defender Andy Hall for criminal defamation and violating the Computer Crimes Act in connection with his efforts to document labour abuses at pineapple and tuna processing facilities for the NGO Finnwatch. Witnesses in human trafficking prosecutions against government officials have also been harassed and threatened without the perpetrators facing serious consequences.

In addition, Thailand has done very little to change legal structures that govern the rights of migrant workers that must be addressed to make anti-trafficking efforts viable and sustainable. Thailand’s current push to register migrant fishers is similar to previous migrant registration efforts in that it provides temporary working documents but still falls short in fixing the complex, expensive registration system that makes workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by labour brokers. Migrant workers are still prohibited by law from forming and serving in the leadership of trade unions and fishers still lack mechanisms to enforce their rights at sea. To address these shortcomings, Thailand should ratify International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions 87 on freedom of association, 98 on the right to organise and collectively bargain, and 188 on rights of work in fishing.

The European Union cannot be confident that Thailand has sufficiently addressed illegalities in its seafood sector, including forced labour and human trafficking, until the government of Thailand demonstrates sustained enforcement and meaningful results. Thailand should demonstrate the political will and enforcement capacity required to investigate and uncover egregious human rights violations in seafood production, prosecute perpetrators, ensure protection of human rights defenders and journalists from judicial and other harassment. Migrant workers must be protected from further abuses by recognizing their right to freedom of association and improving the systems that govern how they find employment, maintain legal working status and access justice.

We encourage you to continue pushing for meaningful change by extending Thailand’s yellow card status. If six months from now, Thailand still fails to demonstrate improved enforcement of laws to protect human rights in its seafood sector, the Commission should consider issuing a red card and take appropriate further steps until Thailand can demonstrate results from actions taken against human traffickers and their enablers, who force men and boys from Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos to endure a life of misery as victims of trafficking in the Thai seafood industry.

We thank you for your consideration. Please direct all replies to Abby McGill at the International Labor Rights Forum, abby@ilrf.org, +1 (202) 347-4100, ext. 113.

Sincerely,

1. American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

2. Anti-Slavery International

3. Chab Dai Coalition

4. Environmental Justice Foundation

5. Fairfood International

6. Finnwatch

7. FishWise

8. Food Chain Workers Alliance

9. Fortify Rights

10. Greenpeace

11. Human Rights and Development Foundation

12. Human Rights at Sea

13. Human Rights Watch

14. Humanity United

15. International Labor Rights Forum

16. International Transport Workers Federation

17. The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)

18. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

19. Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW)

20. Migrant CARE

21. Migrant Workers Rights Network

22. Oceana

23. Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia (SBMI)

24. Trades Union Congress

25. Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2)

26. Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania

27. Walk Free

CC:

• Jesús Miguel Sanz, EU Ambassador to Thailand

• Thomas Bender, Head of Unit, External Relations, Neighbourhood Policy, Enlargement, IPA, Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Directorate General, European Commission

• Joao Aguiar Machado, Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

• Cesar Deben Alfonso, Principal Adviser in the EU’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

• Ernesto Penas Lado, Director, Directorate A, Policy Development and Coordination

• András G. Inotai, member of Karmenu Vella’s team

# # #

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.

 

Visit our website with more features at www.humanrights.asia.

US/ASEAN: Rights Should Top Sunnylands Agenda Invite to Repressive Leaders Puts Onus on Obama to Address Abuses

US/ASEAN: Rights Should Top Sunnylands Agenda
Invite to Repressive Leaders Puts Onus on Obama to Address Abuses

(Washington, February 10, 2016) – United States President Barack Obama should make human rights a central and public focus of the upcoming summit of Southeast Asian leaders in the United States, Human Rights Watch said today in a new report on human rights in the Southeast Asia region. Obama is scheduled to host the leaders of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) February 15-16, 2016, at the Sunnylands estate in California in the first-ever US-ASEAN summit held in the US.

“President Obama knows that human rights are under assault in Southeast Asia; the question is whether he’s going to say or do something about it,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The risk is that the Sunnylands summit will empower and embolden ASEAN leaders who have been responsible for jailing journalists, cracking down on peaceful protesters, and dismantling democratic institutions after coups.”

The 63-page report, “Human Rights in ASEAN,” urges the Obama administration to raise particular human rights concerns at the summit, including political prisoners in Vietnam, politically motivated prosecutions in Malaysia, political repression in Cambodia, and the crackdown on free expression in Thailand.

In a letter sent to President Obama in January, Human Rights Watch called on him to urge ASEAN leaders to take specific actions on human rights ahead of the summit, including releasing significant numbers of political prisoners and dropping politically motivated charges. The letter also outlined several key human rights issues in ASEAN and urged the administration to facilitate civil society participation in the February summit.

The participation at Sunnylands of Thailand’s Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, who has presided over a crackdown on peaceful dissent and assembly since taking power in a 2014 military coup, is especially troubling, Human Rights Watch said. Prayut, who regularly threatens critics with violence and asserts that his decisions are unchallengeable, has repeatedly delayed a return to civilian democratic rule.

Another ASEAN leader, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, has ruled Cambodia for more than 30 years, using violence, intimidation, and politically motivated arrests and prosecutions against all perceived opponents, while allowing high-level corruption and cronyism to flourish. He refused to step down after losing an election in 1993, and subsequently carried out a coup in 1997. He is also implicated in possible crimes against humanity committed in the mid-1970s in eastern Cambodia when he was a commander in the Khmer Rouge. The latest election in 2013 was fundamentally flawed and the opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, is now living in exile to avoid arrest in politically motivated cases. Because of his dismal human rights record, it has long been US policy not to offer an official invitation to visit the US to Hun Sen.

Other ASEAN leaders expected to attend include three other unelected heads of government. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam and President Choummaly Sayasone of Laos preside over one-party authoritarian states that deny basic freedoms and use censorship, threats, and torture to maintain their party’s hold on power. The sultan of Brunei, Hassal Bolkiah, one of the world’s few remaining hereditary government leaders, has imposed a near complete ban on freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.

The prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, who is implicated in a massive corruption scandal, has engaged in a major crackdown on the political opposition, civil society groups, and the media, including imprisoning opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up charges.

“President Obama should ensure that abusive ASEAN leaders do not gain undeserved legitimacy from attending Sunnylands,” Sifton said.

As outlined in Human Rights Watch’s new report, specific human rights issues relevant to ASEAN countries include the lack of free and fair elections; excessive restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and assembly; unnecessary restrictions on civil society groups; abuses against human rights defenders and other activists; women’s rights; political use of courts; high-level corruption; lack of protections of refugees and asylum seekers; human trafficking; and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

“The US government’s diplomatic ‘rebalance’ to Asia could indeed bring positive changes if human rights and democracy are raised to the same level as other US priorities in the region,” Sifton said. “But only if Obama is prepared to tell ASEAN leaders who dismantle democracies or systematically repress their own people that they are harming their countries, both now and for the future.”

For a summary of the report, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/10/human-rights-shouldnt-be-sidelined-asean-summit

For the full report, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/supporting_resources/asean_02_16.pdf

For more information, please contact:
In Washington, DC, John Sifton (English): +1-646-479-2499 (mobile); or siftonj@hrw.org. Twitter: @johnsifton
In Washington, DC, Sarah Margon (English): +1-917-361-2098 (mobile); or margons@hrw.org. Twitter: @sarahmargon
In San Francisco, Brad Adams (English): +1-347-463-3531 (mobile); or adamsb@hrw.org. Twitter: @BradAdamsHRW

Thailand: Insurgents Target Buddhist Monks Address Abuses, End Cycle of Extremism and Reprisal

 
For Immediate Release
Thailand: Insurgents Target Buddhist Monks
Address Abuses, End Cycle of Extremism and Reprisal

Human-Rights-Watch_1(New York, July 28, 2015) – Separatist insurgents in southern Thailand should immediately stop their attacks on civilians, Human Rights Watch said today. Deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on civilians in an armed conflict are violations of the laws of war and may be war crimes.

On July 25, 2015, an improvised explosive device (IED) was set off in Saiburi district of Pattani province, fatally injuring Buddhist monk Phra Ekkapol Sri-o-sod, 43, wounding monk Phra Payom Suktri, 54, and seriously injuring three members of their military protection escort. The bombing, which occurred while the monks were on their morning rounds from Wat Wimonwattanaram Templeto collect alms from villagers, had all the hallmarks of an attack by separatist insurgents.

“This vicious campaign of violence against civilians by separatist groups violates international law and undermines their cause,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “There is no justification for deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on civilians, which can be war crimes.”

Daily violence and a climate of fear have seriously disrupted the lives of ordinary people in Thailand’s southern provinces. In response to the latest attack in Saiburi district, the 4th army region commander, in charge of the southern border provinces, told Buddhist monks to stay in the temples and stop collecting alms because of security concerns.

The high numbers of civilian casualties since the renewal of armed conflict in the southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, and Songkhla in 2004 have been a grave cause of concern, Human Rights Watch said. Of the more than 6,000 people killed, about 90 percent have been civilians from the ethnic Thai Buddhist and ethnic Malay Muslim populations. Over the past 11 years, at least 20 Buddhist monks have been killed and 25 wounded by alleged separatist insurgents.

In responding to the conflict, government security forces and militias continue to commit killings, enforced disappearances, and torture with impunity. The Thai government has yet to prosecute successfully any security personnel for abuses against ethnic Malay Muslims alleged to be involved in the insurgency. There is no credible and effective mechanism to help investigate complaints from ethnic Malay Muslims concerning abusive, corrupt, or inept officials, problems that have generated discord among the population.

The laws of war, also known as international humanitarian law, prohibit attacks on civilians or attacks that fail to discriminate between military personnel and civilians. Claims by insurgents that attacks on civilians are lawful because they are part of the Thai Buddhist state, or that Islamic law as they interpret it permits such attacks, have no justification under international law. The laws of war also prohibit reprisal attacks and summary executions against civilians and captured combatants, mutilation of the dead, and attacks directed at civilians and civilian structures such as schools. Since January 2004, separatist insurgents have committed numerous such violations in Thailand’s southern border provinces.

“To counter an increasingly brutal insurgency, the Thai government needs to address abuses by its own security forces and answer grievances in the ethnic Malay Muslim community,” Adams said. “If troops are shielded from criminal responsibility, it will only further intensify a terrible cycle of extremism and reprisal.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Thailand, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/thailand

For more information, please contact:
In Bangkok, Sunai Phasuk (English, Thai): +66-81-632-3052 (mobile); orphasuks@hrw.org. Twitter: @SunaiBKK
In San Francisco, Brad Adams (English): +1-347-463-3531 (mobile); oradamsb@hrw.org. Twitter: @BradMAdams

รายงานข่าว: Human Rights Watch ออกแถลงการณ์ถึงกรณีการเข้าจับกุมนักศึกษาและประชาชนทั้ง 14 คน

Human-Rights-Watch_127 มิ.ย. 2558 องค์กรฮิวแมนไรท์วอทช์ (Human Rights Watch) ออกแถลงการณ์ถึงกรณีการเข้าจับกุมนักศึกษาและประชาชนทั้ง 14 คนในนามขบวนการประชาธิปไตยใหม่ เมื่อวันที่ 26 มิ.ย. ที่ผ่านมา ระบุว่าเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐควรยกเลิกข้อกล่าวหาและปล่อยตัวนักศึกษานักกิจกรรมทั้ง14 คนซึ่งต้านการปกครองของรัฐบาลทหารอย่างสันติ โดยไม่มีเงื่อนไข

แถลงการณ์ระบุว่า จากวันที่ 26 มิถุนายน 2558 ตำรวจและทหารได้ใช้อำนาจตามหมายจับของศาลทหารเข้าจับกุมนักศึกษา 14 คนจากกลุ่มขบวนการประชาธิปไตยใหม่ ข้อหาปลุกระดมและฝ่าฝืนคำสั่งของรัฐบาลทหารที่ห้ามการชุมนุมในที่สาธารณะ ซึ่งขณะนี้นักศึกษาชาย 13 คนอยู่ที่เรือนจำพิเศษกรุงเทพฯ และนักศึกษาหญิง 1 คนอยู่ที่ทัณฑสถานหญิงกลาง

แบรด อดัมส์ ผู้อำนวยการประจำภูมิภาคเอเชียของฮิวแมนไรท์วอทช์ กล่าวว่า “รัฐบาลทหารควรหยุดจับกุมและดำเนินคดีนักกิจกรรม ในขณะที่ยืนยันว่าตนเองไม่ใช่เผด็จการ แต่ทหารไทยใช้ศาลทหารเป็นเครื่องมือในการปราบปรามและต่อต้านการวิพากษ์วิจารณ์อย่างสันติและความเห็นต่างในทางการเมือง”

ในแถลงการณ์ระบุต่อไปว่า เมื่อวันที่ 24 และ 25 มิถุนายน เจ้าหน้าที่รัฐได้เข้าจับกุม รังสิมันต์ โรม, วสันต์ เสดสิทธิ, ทรงธรรม แก้วพันพฤกษ์, พายุ บุญโสภณ, อภิวัฒน์ สุนทรารักษ์, รัฐพล ศุภโสภณ, ศุภชัย ภูคลองพลอย, อภิสิทธิ์ ทรัพย์นภาพันธ์, ภาณุพงศ์ ศรีธนานุวัฒน์, สุวิชา พิทังกร, ปกรณ์ อารีกุล, จตุภัทร์ บุญภัทรรักษา, พรชัย ยวนยี และ ชลธิชา แจ้งเร็ว ซึ่งนักศึกษากลุ่มนี้ได้ชุมนุมกันอย่างสันติวิธีและเรียกร้องให้ยกเลิกการปกครองโดยทหารภายใต้ คสช. ด้าน พล.อ.อุดมเดช สีตบุตร รมช.กลาโหม และผู้บัญชาการทหารบก กล่าวหา 14 นักศึกษาว่ามีกลุ่มต่อต้านรัฐบาลอยู่เบื้องหลัง และอ้างว่าการกระทำของนักศึกษาจะนำไปสู่การก่อความวุ่นวายและความรุนแรง

สำหรับความผิดตามข้อหาปลุกระดมตามมาตรา 116 ประมวลกฎหมายอาญา มีโทษจำคุกสูงสุด 7 ปี ส่วนการฝ่าฝืนคำสั่ง คสช. มีโทษจำคุกอีก 6 เดือน และปรับไม่เกิน 10,000 บาท

แถลงการณ์ระบุว่า การจับกุมตามอำเภอใจครั้งล่าสุดนี้เป็นอีกครั้งที่ทำให้เห็นว่ารัฐบาลทหารไม่ได้เต็มใจจะผ่อนการปกครองที่กดขี่ของตัวเองลงเลย กฎหมายสิทธิมนุษยชนระหว่างประเทศที่สะท้อนให้เห็นในกติการะหว่างประเทศว่าด้วยสิทธิพลเมืองและสิทธิทางการเมือง (ICCPR) ที่ประเทศไทยมีผลผูกพันตั้งแต่ปี 2539 นั้นได้รับรองเสรีภาพในการแสดงความคิดเห็นและการชุมนุมอย่างสงบ อย่างไรก็ตาม ตั้งแต่การเข้ายึดอำนาจของรัฐบาลทหารเดือนพฤษภภาคม 2557 นั้น รัฐบาลทหารได้สั่งห้ามชุมนุมทางการเมืองที่มีมากกว่า 5 คนขึ้นไป และเจ้าหน้าที่รัฐเข้าจับกุมประชาชนอย่างน้อย 80 คน สำหรับการชุมนุมในที่สาธารณะ

จากประกาศของ คสช. ฉบับที่ 37 ที่ให้อำนาจการตัดสินคดีอยู่ที่ศาลทหารแทนศาลพลเรือน ในความผิดต่อความมั่นคงของชาติ และการปลุกระดม และความผิดตามกฎหมายอาญา มาตรา 112 รวมถึงปัจเจกบุคคลที่ฝ่าฝืนคำสั่งของ คสช. จะต้องขึ้นศาลทหารเช่นเดียวกัน ประชาชนหลายร้อยคนซึ่งส่วนใหญ่เห็นต่างทางการเมืองและวิพากษ์วิจารณ์ คสช. ถูกนำตัวขึ้นศาลทหาร

การให้อำนาจศาลทหารในประเทศไทยเป็นการล้มเหลวต่อมาตรฐานการตัดสินคดีนานาชาติภายใต้ ICCPR ซึ่งกำหนดห้ามไม่ให้รัฐบาลให้พลเรือนขึ้นศาลทหารเมื่อยังมีศาลพลเรือนอยู่

คณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชน เคยกล่าวถึงกรณีเช่นนี้ว่า “การตัดสินคดีของพลเรือนในศาลทหารหรือศาลพิเศษอาจจะเกิดปัญหาที่ร้ายแรงพอ ๆ กับที่ความยุติธรรมความเป็นธรรม และความเป็นอิสระของกระบวนการยุติ เป็นเรื่องน่ากังวล”

“และสิ่งนี้เป็นปัญหาที่ยากจะแก้โดยเฉพาะในประเทศไทย เมื่อกระบวนการทุกๆ ส่วนของศาลทหารขึ้นอยู่กับสายการบังคับบัญชาของกระทรวงกลาโหม” แถลงการณ์ระบุ

“ข่าวการจับกุมครั้งล่าสุดยิ่งตอกย้ำว่า การหาหนทางไปสู่ประชาธิปไตยในประเทศไทยเป็นเรื่องยากกว่าเดิม รัฐบาลทั่วโลกควรกดดันให้รัฐบาลทหารหยุดการปราบปรามและเคารพในสิทธิขั้นพื้นฐาน” แบรด อดัมส์ กล่าว
ที่มาเรียบเรียงจาก
http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/06/26/thailand-junta-arrests-14-student-activists