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Junta accused by Amnesty of rights violations

Posted by pakin On February - 25 - 2016

Annual report highlights numerous restrictions and alleged abuses.

ALLEGED human-rights infringements by the military and claims of ill-treatment of victims in the legal system were Amnesty International’s top concerns in Thailand over the past year, AI said in its annual report yesterday.

“[Thailand’s] military authorities extended their powers to excessively restrict rights and silence dissent in the name of security,” the report said. “The numbers of people harassed, prosecuted, imprisoned and arbitrarily detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights escalated sharply.”

The country’s political transition plans were also delayed, the report says, along with increasing arrests and prosecutions under the lese majeste law.

AI Thailand’s chairman Chamnan Chanruang said civilians were brought before military courts and charged with offences against internal security, “the security of monarchy” and infringement of orders issued by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

The Bangkok Military Court also summarily dismissed a number of legal petitions questioning its jurisdiction over civilians and seeking a ruling on the incompatibility of the use of military courts with the Kingdom’s international human-rights obligations, Chamnan said during a release of the report at a Bangkok hotel.

Such incompatibility was seen in charges against and detention of activists of the New Democracy Movement and the Resistant Citizen groups, who carried out separate peaceful public protests against the junta government, he said.

The charges followed the NCPO order 3/2015, he said, authorising military officers arbitrarily to detain individuals and censor a variety of media, and criminalised public political meetings of five or more people.

The abuses also occurred in the form of the opening of a temporary military detention facility for civilian detainees in September, and the deaths of two detainees in custody in October and November, he said.

A draft bill criminalising torture and enforced disappearance was put before the National Legislative Assembly but had made no further progress since last year, he said.

Amnesty claimed human-rights abuses included continuation of the armed conflict in the predominantly Muslim region in the deep South, with civilians being targets of attacks suspected to have been carried out by armed groups, he said.

There were also restrictions on freedom of expression towards citizens and journalists. Two journalists from the online news site Phuketwan were acquitted of defamation charges after a long court battle with the Navy, which had sued them for publicising a Reuters article exposing official involvement in human trafficking, he said.

Regarding abuses against refugees’ and migrants’ rights, he said Thai authorities deported 109 people of Turkic origin to China, where they were at risk of convictions, and prohibited Muslim Rohingya passengers from landing in the Kingdom. They were also slow to set up search and rescue operations for boats in distress, he said.

To counter its concerns, AI urged the Thai government to alleviate restrictions against peaceful commentators and human-right defenders. It said it must also amend the lese majeste law by abolishing clauses allowing parties to appeal against one another over charges, AI said.

The government must also unconditionally dismiss charges against any party merely exercising its right of expression, the AI report said.

The international non-governmental organisation urged Thai authorities to adopt an independent investigative process and pass the draft bill criminalising torture and enforced disappearance, in accordance with international human-rights laws.

In regards to conflicts in southern Thailand, there must be an efficient investigative process – together with detainees’ ensured access to their lawyers and relatives, including a successful search for long-disappeared lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit.

AI urged the government to respect a principle on non-refoulement and ratify the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. It urged the government officially to abstain from using the death penalty, despite its practical dormancy in the Kingdom since 2009, it said.

AI’s annual report was handed to and acknowledged by a representative from the Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Organisations at the end of the launching event.

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