The Nation/ANN - Govt opponents silenced as freedom of expression, particularly on internet, hit
HUMAN rights have greatly diminished in Thailand during three years of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) administration and the situation looks to be getting worse, rights experts say, as many laws allow the authorities to tighten control on people’s lives and liberty for the sake of “peace and order”.
Three years after the coup that led the NCPO to power, human rights watchdogs have noted how the rights situation here continues to slip in all aspects, resulting in greater inequality, an atmosphere of fear, and severe social injustice.
Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher on Thailand in Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said the trend of human rights in Thailand is declining, as the government doesn’t truly respect rights principles, so there is more repression of those who oppose their moves and the NCPO exercises absolute power to rule the country.
“We have seen that the current regime is totalitarian in nature, since the NCPO leader and Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha is the supreme leader, who can exercise ultimate power without checks and balances of power. This has led to major oppression of those who think differently from the government,” Sunai said.
“Many people have suffered enforced disappearance and been put on trial for national stability reasons. Recently, six people were just arrested in a secret place before appearing in court on an allegation of defaming the monarchy.”
He said during the NCPO’s three years in power many basic rights had been greatly jeopardised, such as the right to demonstrate and freedom of expression, in order to maintain peace and order through the power of NCPO orders and many laws that ignore human rights principles, such as the Public Assembly Act.
A similar view was shared by Thai Netizen Network leader Sarinee Achavanuntakul, who warned that Thai people’s liberty on the Internet was at risk as freedom of speech was no longer protected under the NCPO regime. “The situation of people’s rights and liberty has got steadily worse during this past three years, especially Internet freedom.
This is because the government has come out with many laws, which try to keep information distribution on the online world under their control,” Sarinee said.
She said laws such as the Computer Crime Act had been repeatedly used against activists and reporters, while many regulations of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society forced website owners and Internet providers to practise self-censorship, which severely diminished freedom of speech.
Prayong Doklamyai of the People's Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) stressed that basic human rights such as land rights and communal rights were also neglected by the regime, as many policies and projects were carried on by the government without proper public participation and protection from impacts on people’s rights.
“It is clear that this government does not value basic human rights, as their actions such as forest reclamation operations and the setting up of special economic zones across the country violate people’s rights very severely,” Prayong said.
“Many communities in the forest have been threatened and the communal rights for people – to let them manage their land and local natural resources – have been taken away, since the government transferred these rights into the state’s hands.”
He noted that many projects and laws passed by the NCPO regime deprived people from participation and co-management, such as the recent plan to create the Eastern Economic Corridor and special economic zones in border areas, which in the end will violate people’s rights on land and to live in a healthy environment because of major industrialisation.
“This is creating greater inequality and injustice in our society and in the end will badly aggravate relations between the government and the people,” he warned.
Sarinee emphasised that the human rights situation in Thailand now was very worrying, as the NCPO used legislation to control people’s liberty, causing an atmosphere of fear.
“This situation will remain even after we have a government from an election – until these laws are amended,” she said.
Sunai said that if the human rights situation did not improve, we would not see the return of a government that respects and protects human rights, because the NCPO has already laid down a legal foundation to inherit power, since the new Constitution legalises the junta’s authority and many laws feature NCPO values.
Despite this, Government Spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the government fully understands and respects human rights. But it was normal that the government had to deal with criminals seriously.
“The human rights of all people are protected by the government, unless they violate the law. We have to be clear that if you break the law, you are a criminal and have to be dealt with according to the justice system to keep law and order,” Sansern said.
He said that people who were detained in military camps before going to court were suspected of harming national stability and had to be questioned by national stability |officers. Then they would proceed |to a court of justice, as in the case of activist Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa.