Theresa May 'mustn't mince words' over Thailand's human rights record during PM visit

‘In the four years since the coup, the Thai military have tightened their stranglehold on the country, issuing new laws to gag critics and scare people into submission’ – Kate Allen

Ahead of tomorrow’s visit (Wednesday 20 June) from the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Amnesty International has called on Theresa May to convey her deep concern at the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

Amnesty has repeatedly condemned the imposition of a restrictive human rights environment in Thailand since the 2014 coup, which brought to power the National Council for Peace and Order under Prime Minister and military General Prayut Chan-O- Cha.

Amnesty said the meeting is an opportunity to raise significant human rights concerns about the country, in particular those relating to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which has involved the detention and prosecution of hundreds of individuals. Amnesty also called on Mrs May to condemn the first execution in Thailand since 2009, which was carried out on Monday.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Theresa May mustn’t mince her words when she condemns the woeful state of human rights in Thailand.

“Just this week Thailand used the death penalty for the first time in nearly a decade, a grim sign of the country’s human rights decline.

“In the four years since the coup, the Thai military have tightened their stranglehold on the country, issuing new laws to gag critics and scare people into submission.

“These sorts of high-level meetings shouldn’t just be about getting out the cheque books and order forms. In the scramble to secure post-Brexit business deals, Britain mustn’t trade away its ability to speak out about appalling human rights abuses.”

The UK Government has previously highlighted its pursuit of trade deals with Thailand.

Amnesty said that Theresa May should go beyond merely saying she had raised human rights concerns and give details of the specifics of the discussion, including the response of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha so that he can be held to any commitments made.

Human rights under attack

Activists, journalists, politicians, human rights lawyers and human rights defenders are routinely arrested, detained and prosecuted for peacefully expressing opinions about the government and monarchy. Thailand has strict “lèse-majesté” laws that criminalise comment deemed critical of the royal family, those laws have also been used to prosecute and imprison government critics.

The Thai authorities continue to impose excessive restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. In addition, the expanded role of the military in the administration of justice as evidenced by arrests and detention by military personnel and the trial of civilians in military courts, has been detrimental to the right to liberty and security of the person and the right to a fair trial.

Political ban

The Thai authorities are refusing to lift the ban on political activities ahead of elections scheduled for 2019. Hundreds of individuals detained after the coup for ‘attitude adjustment’ - a form of coercive punishment targeting perceived critics of the government - are bound by restrictive conditions of release.

Since coming to power the ruling junta has routinely repressed freedom of expression, including by using existing repressive legislation and introducing new laws and orders heavily restricting the exercise of rights.

Resumption of death penalty

On Monday, Thailand executed a 26-year-old man convicted of aggravated murder, in the country’s first execution since August 2009. Figures provided by the Ministry of Justice in March 2018 state that 510 people, including 94 women, were on death row of whom 193 had exhausted all final appeals. More than half are believed to have been sentenced for drug-related offences.

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