Statement from the Thai Alliance for Human Rights
Delivered at 2013 Annual Convention, Bellflower, CA
October 13, 2013
Target audiences: International HR defenders and Thai citizens
Honorable guests, TAHR chairman of BoD, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freedom House, human rights defenders in Asia and around the globe, TAHR members, and all Thai citizens worldwide:
On behalf of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights (TAHR), I thank you all the parties that have participated in the hard work that makes this event possible and successful today. TAHR is a non-profit, independent, non-partisan organization registered with the State of California that has established its three dimensions of missions in tackling human rights issues especially in Thailand and, whenever possible, in Asia and around the globe in collaboration with other human rights agencies. These missions include prevention, rehabilitation, and conscientization.
Human rights violations are taking place in all societies, but they come in different forms and at different degrees. Cultural relativism has often been claimed by abusive leaders as a reason for not fully complying with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but TAHR stands firm on the ground that the universal human rights should be respected by and fully guaranteed for all humankind.
Sadly enough, human rights violators have, as in the example of Thailand, been exploiting political, socio-cultural, economic, and educational elements to disguise themselves and to perpetuate the oppression or dehumanization, as many helpless citizens are not aware of such structural abuses and as many who stood up to resist or try to change the systems have been suppressed and oftentimes brutally murdered.
In Thailand, loyalty to the monarchy is made equivalent to national security, and as such laws associated with both could nullify all the legal articles in this kingdom’s past and current constitutions that would otherwise guarantee the basic human rights for all Thais. Virtually all coup d’etats in the Thai political history cited threats to the throne and to national security as two main reasons. In fact, these two elements have also been culturally promoted through one-sided propagandas that consume large amounts of national budgets. Thais could love the king so much that they can hate fellow citizens enough to harm them by using all means. Forty years ago, today in 1973, groups of students and some progressive citizens rose up against the royal military regime and successfully achieved a new and more democratic constitution. However, three years later, student activists and politically active citizens were brutally massacred at Thammasat University in the name of protection of the Monarchy and national security. The abuses witnessed in both the 1973 and especially in 1976 violence were made possible by the culturally constructed blind love and faith in the national security and the monarchy. Of course, this is not to put all the blame on a single institution or a person, but rather on the structural elements combined.
Economically speaking, Thais deserve more from the rich natural, cultural, and human resources that Thailand possesses. However, the resources have been shared by only the minority elites. Worse, too much of people’s taxes have been used to promote the love for the richest monarchy in the world and to feed the greedy and spoiled royal army. National debts, personal debts, difficult daily life when incomes and inflation rates do not agree, and political rifts that take away peace, freedom, opportunities, and happiness among people are all apparent to naked eyes, as the quality of Thai education has also been found at the bottom of the table among ASEAN countries.
The Yingluck administration is, to many observant eyes, too soft and reluctant to address the real human rights problems, given the unimproved human rights records that international human rights agencies have so far released. Despite the image of the lovely Prime Minister talking about democracy and human rights, academic freedom and freedom of speech are suppressed by the enforcement of the 2007 Computer Crime Act and Article 112 Lese Majeste law. Worse, the judicial systems have failed to grant the assured rights to bails before individuals are found guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. The very existence of the lese majeste law has in itself violated several articles in Universal Declaration of Human Rights, namely articles 9, 10, 11, 18, and 19, and yet, the government has done nothing to amend or tackle resulted issues effectively. Meanwhile, victims of recent massacres still have not obtained their overdue justice. No single rights abuser has stepped into the court. And it is also hard to believe that the democratically elected government that came to power by the sweat and blood of the people has shown its clear intention to avoid ratifying the Rome Statute with the International Criminal Court. Obviously, much more has to be done by the Thai government to fulfill the verbal promises and the expected obligations for which PM Yingluck is held responsible.
Of course, Thailand is facing many other types of human rights abuses. Records in recent years still pinpoint several other types of human rights violations, including human trafficking and prostitution, child labor, domestic violence, fatal attacks on Buddhist civilians in the Deep South, police brutality and abuses, and more. Sadly, the National Council for Human Rights that was established according to the 2007 constitution has been nothing but a solemn farce and ally to the status quo.
On the surface, Thailand may seem as charming as it gets, but given its oppressive structure and clear records of massacres, escalated abuses, and repeated impunity, the world cannot turn a blind eye to the situations in Thailand. We are asking you to help us whenever needs are called for. We hope to visit your offices to share more details about the structural elements that have perpetuated all these different kinds of violations and learn from your experiences.
Thank you all parties involved in the preparation and events in this annual convention of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights. May you all be blessed with love, peace, wisdom, and full human rights. Thank you.