Statement by Dr. Snea Thinsan
Executive Director of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights
Given at the Regional Conference on Thailand: Human Rights
and Democracy in Crisis, University of the Phillipines, July 17-19, 2014
Dear Friends of Thailand and esteemed human rights defenders:
How I wish I were with you all now to deliver my speech live and participate in such important discussions on problems with which Thailand is suffering. Recognizing that this forum deals more specifically with issues related to human rights violations in Thailand, I will keep that in mind, but I do reserve my rights in speaking about the root causes of the problems that some panelists bound to return to Thailand are not able to talk about for fear of the dark power back in that unfortunate land once known as the “Land of Smiles!”
Before I get to the intended topics, please let me thank Evelyn XXXX and her colleagues who have kindly set up this forum with a special focus on Thai problems for inviting me to deliver this speech. Thailand once used to be the helping brother or sister to our neighboring friends in ASEAN and to some extent in ASIA. However, it must be admitted and stressed, now more than ever, that Thais need all the help they can get from our ASEAN and international friends in digging us out of the deep holes that we have dug or should be held responsible collectively. So, thank you sincerely and greatly for all your kind consideration and help.
I believe my colleagues in the panel will, if not already have, cover the many instances of human rights violations. I am sure that violations of rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, academic freedom, rights to fair and free trial with granted bails, and many basic rights that Thais and all human beings deserve to have and be respected by the people in power as well as all other human beings around them.
My friend, how sad it is to see Thailand in the state and being that it is today! How did we get here?—some Thais still ask themselves. Other Thais are quite enlightened, but they do not dare speak about it? And you should know why. Under the dictatorship directed by the Royal Thai Army, the helpful voices of academics, activists, thinkers, scholars, politicians, and citizens in Thailand have been fiercely suppressed. Please let me use this forum as a stage for giving voices to the silenced. I will attempt to answer two major and challenging questions that should give birth to at least a few books:
How have human rights violations in Thailand become so worrying today?
What can we do about them?
The root causes of human rights violations are multiple and complicated. However, there are a few that must be mentioned, and they must be tackled if Thailand is to improve from its abysmal records today.
First, I believe that Thai culture or the very cunning constructs of the so-called “Thainess” leads to discriminations and abuses. Instead of seeing human beings as equally destined to be born, aged, sick, and deceased, Thais are taught believe in unequal external and superficial or more materialistic components after birth such as the family name, wealth of the parents, professions and social status of the parents, the schools and universities they attend, the car they drive, the people they know, etc. Such a foundation for the belief system among Thais gives rises to easy acceptance of class division and submission or compliance with the commands and orders by the authority. Figures of authority are active at all levels, father or the most senior in the family, teachers at school, more senior fellow students in college, bosses in the workplaces, monks or priests in religious temples, and, of course, the divine gods and goddesses in the Chakri Dynasty.
Given such a scenario, Thais are usually ready to judge and treat others differently based on self positioning or status placement in relation to that of others. They judge others from the words they speak, the dresses they wear, the surnames they carry, the attributes of their skins, the clubs they join, the people they know, and so on. Once one is judged or labeled as such, Thais virtually automatically treat the person in front of them discriminatively or differently. And they do not see discriminations as anything wrong!!! They, hence, jump into a conclusion easily or based on their prejudice and believe that human beings are not born equal and must accept the fate and destiny fixed for them because of the deeds in the past life. All these elements, among many others, of Thainess were not developed natually, but they have been constructed by the manipulative ruling class, or the elites and those who benefit from the system that centers around the superiority or extraordinary image of the Thai monarch, which is the second and main root cause of human rights violations that we have seen intensified today.
Indeed, the main and fundamental cause of human rights in Thailand have been historically, culturally, and mainly politically constructed, and, I must say, that the Thai monarchy has much to do with the oppressive measures used by the allies in the royal networks that feed on the blood and flesh of Thai democracy. The role of the manarchy and its allies in manipulating the micro and macro systems to get rid of their enemies, who happened to be more progressive and pro-democracy citizens, or the victims of murder, abuses, threats, and all forms of suppression during the last eight decades since the 1932 regime change. All human rights violations in Thailand, as mentioned earlier, are multiple, and some may not be directly caused by political acts by the ruling class, and they, therefore, may be seen as helpless. However, I challenge you all to look at all forms of the so-called “structural violence” and find the necessary connection with political acts by the royal networks.
To support this serious accusation, that the royal networks’ “political machination” has caused or committed serious, systematic, and brutal forms of human rights abuses, let’s turn to some facts.
Since the shift from absolute monarchy in 1932, there have been far too many attempts to topple government undemocratically, enough to put Thai on the 4th in the world and Thailand one of the only three countries with military dictatorship in power. Interestingly enough, the generals or army leaders involving in those attempts were seldom punished, and most were rewarded and entrusted by King Bhumibol unless they grew too powerful to keep. Now, the terrible part, along with these political power struggles, progressive Thais also took part, but with their desires to make Thailand more democratic and developed, not to comply with the dictators subtly puppeted by the royal networks’ strategic teams. Sadly, as a result, there have been many massacres during these eight decades, in which murderers in uniform who always used loyalty to the Thai monarch as their “license to kill” and have repeatedly been granted royal amnesty, as follows:
Name/Date/ Location/ Deaths/ Injuries
1973 Thai student uprising
October 14, 1973
Over 800 injuries
Thammasat University massacre
October 6, 1976
Black May (1992)
May 17, 1992
Hundreds of injuries
(plus many disappearances,and over 3,500 arrests)
Krue Se incident
April 28, 2004
Excessive use of power made in contradiction of orders from the Minister of Defense!
Tak Bai incident
October 25, 2004,
Tak Bai, Narathiwat
2010 Thai military crackdown
April to May 2010,
In fact, I have received verbal reports from red-shirted protesters about civilians being murdered in the 2009 crackdown by the Abhisit government and, most recently, in the use of force against protesters at the Aksa Road at the edge of Bangkok on May 22, 2014, on which over 100 red-shirted guards and civilians, as well as some army officers were killed. The actual number of deaths and injuries may be different from that in the report by the tyrannical and dictatorial National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), just like the numbers of the arrested. detained, and disappeared that are still unknown or hidden. Again, the perpetrators, mainly the army officers, have not appeared even in front of the preliminary courts! The PDRC, the allies led by Mr. Suthep Thuagsuban, now a monk, who broke so many laws that qualified them for treasons, are now resting quietly and satisfactorily under their desired dictatorship controlled by the Royal Army. And you can bet safely that General Prayuth and the NCPO, as well as PDRC members, will, before anything else, receive royal amnesty as part of their soon-to-be-released temporary constitution. All these used to go unnoticed, but the recent oppression and abuses targeted at the progressive red-shirted politicians, academics, scholars, activists, and politicians have enlightened many fairminded and learned Thais that the royal networks that have worked systematically since before the 2006 coup can do anything to make sure that the Chakri Dynasty remains in existence with suppressed challenges or resisstence so that the royal networks will continue to benefit from the wealth traditionally shared among the minority elites in teh networks.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Thai royally-patronaged army dictatorial regime will not stop its oppression because the Thai monarch and its strategic teams have decided not to allow democracy to grow further and to continue their efforts more intensively in regenerating blind love for and loyalty to King Bhumibol and the next lady king they intend to put to the throne. I believe this is the case because the royal networks have taken the following sacred missions riligously:
1. Protect and use the lese majesty law aggressively.
2. Prevent the ratification of the Rome Statute at all causes, so that the army will be able to use forces against civilians and get away with it, as always.
3. Suppress all the redshirts and the Thaksin-supported networks in hope for weakening the progressive forces and for maintaining the status quo.
4. Grant royal amnesty to all their allies for all the wrongdoings and murderous acts during the past eight years; and
5. Try to legitimately strengthen the dictatorial system by fooling the world community that they are adopting democratic means.
As you can see, what the Thai status quo wants goes againsts the democratic principles, the rule of law, and the universal human rights. It’s oppressive and undemocratic goals are also against the will of the majority of Thais who showed their preferences for elections, equality under the rule of law, and the popular sovereignty of the people. I can predict without any reluctance that the majority of Thais will rise up soon when their tolerance ends and when the dictators failed to deliver any false promise. Thailand must change. Thailand must be fully democratic. The culture of respect for human rights must be seriously built. The Thai monarchy, if it is to continue to exist, must be practically and literally under the constitution as in England or Japan. Or else, Thailand will become a republic.
My respected friends, what can you, as friends of Thais and the Land of Smiles that you once enjoyed visiting, will mean so much to a better future of Thailand. I ask that you help Thais in the following ways.
Send your representatives to work in Thailand more closely to prevent human rights violations, to cure or rehabilitate the victims, and to encourage the concerned parties to do what they need to do to get out of the existing dilemmas.
Condemn all undemocratic, abusive, and violent acts by the royal networks and boycott Thailand in all aspects to force the dictators to return Thailand to civilian government and hand the power to the people through elections, not appointments of members of the royal networks.
Support the government in exile if it is one day established.
Pressure your governments not to allow allies of the Thai dictators and rights abusers to enter your countries.
Pressure the authorities in Thailand to free all political prisoners or at least grant them the bails they each rightfully deserve.
Urge King Bhumibol to abolish the barbaric and ancient lese majeste law.
Push Thailand towards ratifying the Rome Statute as soon as possible.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening. This speech, by no means, can give justice to these important issues and the people involved fairly and adequately. That would require a few books, as I said in the beginning. I do not expect you will fully be convinced of all points, but I ask you to note some of the issues seriously. I hope you will continue to discuss and exchange ideas and information during the rest of the forum and in the future. Most importantly, I ask you all to do what you can to help Thailand get out of the holes dug by the royal networks safely and without too many damages. Thank you.