Thailand Democrcy Watch

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22 September 2006

H.E. Louise Arbour
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
UNOG-OHCHR
CH-1211, Geneva 10
Switzerland

Subject:  Request for interventions against the infringement of human rights and fundamental freedoms following the military coup d'etat in Thailand on 19 September 2006

Excellency,

Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) is writing to express its serious concern about the lack of any public statement as of today from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights or the relevant Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council against the infringement of human rights and fundamental freedoms following the military coup d'etat in Thailand on 19 September 2006.

Asian Centre for Human Rights is therefore writing to seek Your Excellency's immediate interventions as well as those of the relevant Special Procedures - the monitoring mechanisms of the United Nations Human Rights Council - to address the infringement of human rights and fundamental freedoms following the coup d'etat. It is in such times of crisis that the OHCHR and the relevant Special Procedures must be seen to be standing up for rights. Immediate interventions against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms are crucial. Or else, silence or socalled “quiet diplomacy” might be mis-construed and mis-interpreted.

1. The September 19th coup d'etat: No rights in Thailand

As Your Excellency is aware, Thailand's military headed by Commander-in-Chief of Thai Army, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, in a bloodless coup on 19 September 2006 ousted caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's government and formed “Administrative Reform Council” (ARC) to run the country. In its third order on 19 September 2006, the ARC suspended the 1997 "people's constitution", dissolved both houses of parliament and the constitution court.

In effect, all human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the 1997 Constitution of Thailand have been suspended. Judiciary has been shut down as the judges can no longer entertain petitions including on habeas corpus in case of violations of human rights. Thailand has been reduced to a country without any rights for its citizens. The military authorities are serving as “judge and jury”. With General Sonthi Boonyaratglin declaring that no elections will be held in one year, human rights situations are all set to deteriorate further as both the opposition and deposed government have called for early elections for returning powers to the civilian authorities.

2. Human rights violations following the coup d'etat

Under no circumstances, military coup d'etat can be justified. The reported problems with autocracy in the name of parliamentary democracy cannot be resolved by the military coup d'etat. They must be resolved by strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law; and not by suspending the rule of law.

While the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as a Secretariat of the United Nations or the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, may not comment on particular types of governments, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) believes that they must stress on the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, therespect for universally recognized human rights and fundamental rights as provided under international human rights law and intervene in cases of violations of human rights and the rule of law as given below.

i. Violations of the right to freedom of association and assembly

On 21 September 2006, the Administrative Reform Council banned all political party meetings and formation of new political parties. The assembly of more than five persons was earlier banned.

Such blanket ban of public meetings violates the right to freedom of association as provided under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  Similarly, the ban on formation of new political rights violates Article 22 of the ICCPR.

As Your Excellency is aware, there is no Special Rapporteur to deal with the violations of the right to freedom of association and assembly. Therefore, it is essential that Your Excellency address these specific issues.

ii. Violations of the right to freedom of expression

Asian Centre for Human Rights is also concerned about the violations of the right to freedom of association and assembly by the military rulers. Among others 300 community radio stations in six Northern provinces, including the cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have been reportedly closed down. In addition, the Administrative Reform Council had summoned the editors of a number of television stations and newspapers, and asked them not to broadcast or publicise the opinions from the public sent in by text message.  The websites were asked to screen comments. Foreign television feeds, including the BBC and CNN, are severely restricted.

These measures violate the right to freedom of association provided under Article 19 of the ICCPR.

iii. Arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention without being produced before any court of law

Asian Centre for Human Rights is also concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention of the political leaders allegedly close to the deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and those who have been exercising the right to freedom of association and assembly.

On 20 September 2006, a group of democracy activists led by former Member of Parliament (MP) Chalard Vorachat were arrested from Democracy Monument in Bangkok for defying the military coup. Another former MP, Thawee Kraikupt who joined the peaceful protest was also arrested.

On 21 September 2006, former natural resources and environment minister Yongyuth Tiyapairat, and former Prime Minister's Office Minister Newin Chidchob were detained.

In addition, Chitchai Wannasathit, former Deputy Prime Minister and senior aide Prommin Lertsuridej have also been taken into custody.

These political leaders have been detained without any order from the courts. Nor have they been produced before any court of law. They are also being held incommunicado.

3. Requests for interventions:

Thailand is a ratifying party to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and it must ensure its full respect. Since the ARC has taken over power, no public emergency has been declared.  Therefore, Thailand cannot derogate from various provisions of the ICCPR. Even if Thailand intends to derogate from certain rights, it must inform other State parties through the Secretary General of the United Nations as required under Article 4 of the ICCPR.

Asian Centre for Human Rights urges Your Excellency and the relevant mechanisms of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council to intervene with His Excellency King Bhumibol Adulyadej as the constitutional head of Thailand and the Administrative Reform Council to immediately:

-          Restore human rights and fundmanetal freedoms, the rule of law, independence of judiciary and civilian government;

-          lift the ban on exercising the right to freedom of association and assembly such as the ban on all political party meetings, formation of new political parties and assembly of more than five persons;

-          withdraw the order for closure of the over 300 community radio stations in six Northern provinces, including the cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and restrictions imposed on the television stations and websites; and

-          release those detained former Members of Parliament, Chalard Vorachat and Thawee Kraikupt and other protestors; Newin Chidchob, a minister in the prime minister's office; Yongyut Tiyapairat, the environment minister; Chitchai Wannasathit, the deputy prime minister; and senior aide Prommin Lertsuridej or produce them before the competent Court if there are any charges against them.

 

With kind regards, 

Yours sincerely 

 

Suhas Chakma
Director


Copy to:

1. Ms. Manuela Carmena Castrillo
Chairperson
UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211, Geneva 10
Switzerland

E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org

2. Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211, Geneva 10
Switzerland

E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org

3. Mr. Leandro Despouy
UN Special Rappoeteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211, Geneva 10
Switzerland

E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org


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