Thailand: Truth and justice under a shadow

Irene Khan said:

“The adoption of a progressive Constitution, the ratification of human rights treaties, the creation of national institutions and other measures to protect human rights are important achievements.

“But the effectiveness of these measures is being undermined by a climate of impunity that allows human rights violations to continue.”

Over the last three years 16 human rights activists have been killed or “disappeared” in Thailand, and restrictions have been placed on the right to protest and freedom of expression. Reports of torture and ill-treatment, and allegations of unlawful killings and “disappearances” have also been made in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ last year, and the current unrest in the South.

The government has established several committees to investigate the killings during the ‘war on drugs’ and a commission to enquire into the killings in the South of 28 April 2004. However, the lack of independence, impartiality and transparency in the process risk compromising the findings and the recommendations.

There are also reports that the use of “blacklists” of suspects in the war on drugs and the unrest in the South has led to extortion and abuse, and created a sense of insecurity. The government has a responsibility to safeguard against any violations of human rights related to such lists.

Alongside Thai civil society, human rights organisations and victims of human rights violations. Amnesty International is calling for accountability, protection of activists, and respect for human rights in promoting law and order and social policies.

Irene Khan continued:

“We do not underestimate the challenges in terms of the country’s serious drugs problem, the unrest in the South and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In each case, an approach that respects and upholds the human rights of all individuals offers the best sustainable strategy. A tough, “quick fix” approach may be tempting and popular, but experience shows that it is untenable in the long run.

“It is the government’s obligation to ensure that justice is done, regardless of whether state officials or non-state actors are responsible. It is in the government’s interest to ensure that its own law enforcement and security officials are beyond suspicion. This can only be achieved if allegations into human rights violations are fully, independently and impartially investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

Ms Khan welcomed the measures put in place by the authorities, such as the creation of a National Human Rights Commission and the establishment of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department in the Ministry of Justice.

Amnesty International also welcomed penal reform initiatives to reduce the severe overcrowding in prisons by emphasising rehabilitation of drug offenders and alternatives to prison for juveniles.

Irene Khan concluded:

“Thailand has played a constructive role in the past in promoting human rights in Asia, and it must continue to do so.”

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