Govt human rights ‘pretence’

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - PM stresses rule of law with cautious support from foreign diplomats, but critics slam record.

Human rights defenders lashed out at Thailand’s declining situation in regard to personal freedoms despite efforts by the ruling junta yesterday to promote human rights as a national agenda item. Critics said rights violations were a daily reality, with activists being subjected to strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) just for exercising their basic freedoms.

Chamnan Chanruang, former chairman of Amnesty International (Thailand), yesterday slammed the latest government tactic as a “pretence”. 
“The prime minister may have missed the point. It is true that people have to obey the laws, but the laws have to be legitimate and written by representatives of the people. That is not the case now,” Chamnan said.

He said the government had reacted far too harshly, with many demonstrators facing charges of sedition simply for using their freedom of expression to call for an election.Angkhana Neelapaijit, a long-time activist and member of the National Human Rights Commission, said the government first and foremost should review certain laws that are impeding personal freedoms.

In particularly, the junta ban on political assemblies of five or more people needed urgent reconsideration, she said.“Too many activists have faced lawsuits because of this law in recent years. I’d really appreciate it if the government could give some importance to it,” Angkhana told The Nation.

Government House yesterday was the venue for a grand event to promote human rights as part of the national agenda under the “Thailand 4.0” initiative. The event included hundreds of guests, including more than 55 foreign diplomats and representatives from international organisations.
It took place only two days after four pro-democracy activists were prosecuted on charges ranging from allegedly breaking a junta order to committing sedition. They have all been released on bail.

The activists attended a recent demonstration calling on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to hold an election this year. More and more rallies have been held as the junta faces mounting pressure in its fourth year in power – longer than many of its elected predecessors.
In a speech yesterday, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said human rights had to be carried out based on “laws and respect of others”.
“What’s important is that human rights must not be an excuse to infringe on other people’s rights,” Prayut said. “The government will harshly punish those violating human rights but please differentiate between violations of rights and breaking of laws. There is a fine line between them.” 

The premier also said people should not use human rights as a reason to “eradicate everything ... Otherwise you will just create clashes with authorities of all types. This sort of problem should not exist any more in this world,” he said.Some representatives from embassies and international organisations yesterday reiterated their support for the Thai administration in its international commitment to human rights.
“We appreciate the prime minister and foreign minister’s emphasis that the government is committed to complying with Thailand’s human rights obligations under the international conventions and agreements to which Thailand is a party,” said United States Embassy spokesperson Stephane Castonguay.

However, Cynthia Veliko, regional representative of the Office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights for Southeast Asia, said: “We hope that the current restrictions on fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression, opinion and assembly, will be lifted with urgency to allow for its successful implementation.” 


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