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Provincial court dismisses case of murdered Imam, saying it belongs to military court
Fri, 2010-09-03 20:21
Narathiwat Provincial Court has dismissed the case of Imam Yapha Kaseng on the grounds that it is not under its jurisdiction, and told his wife to turn to the military courts instead. However, individuals cannot bring cases to a military court; only the authorities can do so.

On 2 Sept, Narathiwat Provincial Court ruled on a criminal case brought by Yapha Kaseng’s wife Nima against 5 military officers and one policeman for detaining and torturing her husband to death while in their custody.

The court dismissed all charges against the police officer who the plaintiff alleged to have breached police regulations and Yapha’s constitutional rights by bringing him and others to a press conference while they were merely suspects. The court ruled that the regulations were not law, and the constitution has no penalty provisions. The fact that the police officer brought a police detention vehicle for the military to use to detain Yapha and others inside the 39th ad hoc unit base was in accordance with the orders of the military under Martial Law.

And the court also dismissed all charges against the other 5 defendants, all military officers, on the grounds that the case falls under the jurisdiction of the military courts.

Narathiwat Provincial Court then ordered the case to be removed from the case-list and told the plaintiff that if she wanted to prosecute the 5 defendants, she could bring the case to the military courts. It instructed her, in doing so, to inform the military court in her indictment that this case had been lodged and dismissed by this court, and also to attach copies of the verdict and the report on the trial process.

According to the Cross Cultural Foundation and the Muslim Lawyers Centre, this was the first lawsuit in the Southern border provinces to be brought against the authorities by an affected individual. Citizens cannot bring cases to military courts by themselves, but only through the military attorney-general. Currently, the case has been forwarded by the police to the National Counter Corruption Committee, but no progress has yet been made as to when the NCCC will finish its investigation and submit the case to the military attorney-general.

The plaintiff will appeal against the provincial court’s ruling in favour of the police officer, on the grounds that no law or regulation can contradict the constitution, which is the country’s highest law, and state agencies, including the courts, are obliged to enact, enforce and interpret the law in accordance with the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. The act of the sixth defendant in bringing suspects to a press conference was in breach of police regulations and the constitution, and is punishable under the Criminal Code.

Yapha Kaseng, an Imam at Koto village mosque, Rueso District, Narathiwat, was arrested by military and police personnel on 19 March 2008. He and other suspects were brought to a press conference and presented as allies of insurgents.

He died on 21 March 2008 at the base of the 39th Narathiwat ad hoc unit in Rueso District.

After filing a complaint with police and seeing slow progress, his wife brought a lawsuit herself at the Provincial Court on 20 Aug 2009.

Categories: Friends Connection
It could never happen here, of course
Fri, 2010-09-03 12:59
Harrison George
The scale of the flooding in Pakistan is difficult to grasp. An area equal to that of the United Kingdom has disappeared under water. Mercifully the number of fatalities (estimated at over 200,000 and still rising, with the threat of epidemics and starvation on the horizon) is so far lower than other recent disasters. But the number of people made homeless, and consequently more or less resource-less, is already greater than that of the 2004 tsunami and the earthquakes in Kashmir in 2005 and Haiti earlier this year, combined. Estimates of the damage to infrastructure – bridges, roads, railways, schools, hospitals and other public services – run to over $4 billion. The cost in lost output, crucially including food crops, is still too large to count.

Help from around the world has been inadequate and slow, which may be partially excused by the size of the disaster. But it has been coming in from all over, even if Thailand’s $75,000 doesn’t quite match the contributions of technically bankrupt countries like Greece and Iceland and is even less than Angelina Jolie’s individual donation of $100,000 to the UN.

And what of the Pakistani government itself?

Well, as the floodwaters threatened the 1.6 million residents of Hyderabad, President Asif Ali Zardari was taking a helicopter ride to visit a 16th century chateau in Normandy. Sightseeing? No, his family owns it.

He also spent 4 days in the UK, and was booked in at The Churchill hotel where ‘royal suites’ cost £7000 a night. (And it should be mentioned in fairness that his predecessor, Gen Pervez Musharraf, normally stayed at the even more expensive Dorchester.) This is not a bed and breakfast so meal packs were ordered from an Asian restaurant at £18 a pop. Then the Pakistani High Commission in London announced that the President would forgo the royal suite in favour of ‘the cheapest 5-star hotel in central London’.

Now a cheap 5-star hotel still costs but perhaps this lavish slumming could be justified if the trip had a clear and urgent purpose in alleviating the misery of the ordinary folk of Pakistan. Unfortunately, this does not seem to have been the case.

The highlight of the trip seems to have been a meeting in Birmingham of the Pakistani People’s Party (the Bhutto/Zardari political brand), to which leading members of the Pakistani community in the UK were invited. And provided with buses to take them there, paid for by the Pakistani government. As was the conference centre, at a reported cost of £40,000.

A fund-raiser for unfortunate fellow Pakistanis? Not quite. It was arranged well before the monsoons and seems to have been the latest step in the choreography by which Bilawal, the son of President Zardari and the late President Benazir Bhutto will eventually waltz into possession of the family inheritance – the presidency of Pakistan. He’s just finished his degree at Oxford and is all of 22, so the time is obviously ripe.

While President Zardari’s trip seems to have been an extended Marie Antoinette moment, his trip to Birmingham involved a George Bush moment. An outraged Pakistani tried to throw his shoes at him.

But could the President have been doing more if he’d stayed at home, putting assistance to his compatriots ahead of tawdry personal political ambition?

I’m not sure. The media pictures of Ban Ki-Moon looking like a distraught Canute may attract the world’s attention, and consequently more assistance. But phu yai are never much use in filling sandbags or piggy-backing the elderly and infirm out of the rising waters. And Bush seems to have been more hindrance than help in the Katrina debacle.

There are arguments that even the appearance of concern by national leaders is valuable, but perhaps President Zardari could help in a more direct way.

He is reported to be the second wealthiest individual in Pakistan with a personal net worth of 1.8 billion dollars. In a country where a few are impressively wealthy while millions are impressively poor (and just made poorer), a personal gesture, like a cheque for a few millions, could be very welcome. It might even provoke generosity among his fellow plutocrats.

But then again.

About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).

Categories: Friends Connection
Myanmar: UN General Assembly should call for commission of inquiry
Fri, 2010-09-03 10:38
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is calling on the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution ensuring the urgent establishment of an international commission of inquiry into serious human rights violations committed in Myanmar, including crimes against humanity and possible war crimes.

The establishment of such a commission was recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar in March. Australia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the UK and the USA have since voiced their support.

The General Assembly should request the UN Secretary-General to rapidly establish a commission to investigate reports of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Myanmar by all parties, and to identify the perpetrators of such violations with a view to ensuring that those responsible for the crimes are brought to justice.

In particular, the inquiry should focus on reports of widespread and systematic persecution of civilian populations by government security forces, especially against the largely Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority in Rakhine State; the ethnic minority Shan in Shan State; and the ethnic minority Karen in eastern Myanmar. The commission should also investigate reports of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by armed groups in the Shan State and in eastern Myanmar.

A June 2008 Amnesty International report, Crimes against humanity in eastern Myanmar, documented unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, forced labour, arbitrary arrests, and various forms of collective punishment, committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population in northern Kayin State and eastern Bago Division starting in late 2005. Amnesty International continues to receive reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, committed with impunity in Myanmar.

The report also highlighted the Myanmar government’s persistent failure to implement the recommendations of the General Assembly, which has adopted 19 resolutions on Myanmar.

The government has signalled its intention to maintain this impunity for its officials accused of past human rights violations. Article 445 of its 2008 Constitution—which will come into force via Myanmar’s first national elections since 1990 set for 7 November 2010—grants present and past officials complete impunity, providing that “no proceeding” may be instituted against officials of the military governments since 1988 “in respect of any act done in the execution of their respective duties.”

With no possibility of justice, truth and reparations for victims at the national level, the international community must take action now.


In his March 2010 report to the UN Human Rights Council (A/HRC/13/48), Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana stated that, “According to consistent reports, the possibility exists that some of these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. […] Given this lack of accountability, United Nations institutions may consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact-finding mandate to address the question of international crimes.”

A UN commission of inquiry into alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide can be established by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council or the Secretary-General.

Categories: Friends Connection
Red-shirt Australian still held at immigration, no money for air fare home
Fri, 2010-09-03 10:35
Conor David Purcell, an Australian national who was arrested and convicted for his involvement in the red-shirt rallies in April and May and was ordered to be released on 20 Aug, is still being detained at the Police Immigration Division at Soi Suan Phlu because he has no money for the air fare home.

Purcell went on stage and gave speeches during the red-shirt rallies in Ratchaprasong, and was arrested on 27 May.

He was convicted of violating the Emergency Decree and sentenced to 3 months in jail. But as he pleaded guilty, the sentence was commuted to one month and 15 days, and as he had already been detained for 89 days since the arrest, the court ordered his release.

In the ruling, the court said that apart from violating the Emergency Decree, the defendant had not carried or used weapons, or carried out any other action meant to harm life or public property; therefore, the defendant had not committed a serious crime. The court took into account the fact the defendant’s motive in joining the protesters and committing the offence was the result of his belief that his actions constituted legitimate expression in accordance with democracy where people can have differing views. The court then gave him a light punishment.

However, Purcell is still currently being held at the Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Centre as he cannot afford the air fare and other expenses, which the Australian Embassy has refused to help with.

His family in Australia has been notified of this, but no progress has yet been made.

A friend of his in Thailand told Prachatai that he was going to get in touch with the Australian Embassy for help in a couple of days, while he was trying to collect money from others for the air fare. Purcell might promise to repay the embassy later for other expenses, the source said.

Categories: Friends Connection
Malaysian editor charged over satirical blog post
Thu, 2010-09-02 16:39
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
A Malaysian editor was charged on 2 September 2010 with publishing false information on his satirical blog, media reports said.

The Associated Press said Irwan Abdul Rahman, better known as blogger "Hassan Skodeng," and editor of the "Malay Mail" newspaper's lifestyle section was accused of publishing online content deemed "obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with malicious intent."

Irwan pleaded not guilty before the court in Petaling Jaya to charges that he violated section 233 (1) (a) Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Act.

News portal www.themalaysianinsider.com said that "if convicted, Irwan can be fined up to RM5,000 or jailed up to a year, or both." He was later released after posting a bail of RM4,000.

AP said the case stemmed from Irwan's blog article, "TNB to sue WWF over earth hour" posted in March this year in which he claimed that the head of Malaysia's main electricity firm, Tenaga Nasional, would allegedly sue the environmental group World Wildlife Fund "for urging people to switch off their lights for the annual Earth Hour initiative."

Irwan said the "fake jokes" he posts in his blogs are meant as "stress relief". He said he removed the article two days after he posted it after he noticed a sudden increase in traffic in his blog, noting that "the reaction to [the] joke has gone out of control."

Malaysian media group Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), a SEAPA associate member based in Kuala Lumpur, noted that with Irwan's case, authorities are telling the public what are the "no-go areas" for Malaysian bloggers, hence "instilling self-censorship."

Categories: Friends Connection
Supporting civilians that face ongoing military attacks
Thu, 2010-09-02 16:31
Karen Human Rights Group
The Burma Army continues to launch deliberate military attacks that target civilians and undermine humanitarian conditions in upland areas of Karen State, according to the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), which today released the report Self-protection under strain: Targeting of civilians and local responses in northern Karen State. Drawing on over 212 interviews and 85 field documents submitted by KHRG field researchers since January 2009, the report makes clear that civilians contending with attacks need increased humanitarian support. This support must be designed to strengthen local communities existing capacities for protection of human rights.

Self-protection under strain focuses on one particularly affected area of northern Karen State, where a displaced population of more than 27,000 villagers continue to face attacks. “The situation remains urgent,” said Saw Poe Shan K. Phan, KHRG’s Field Director. “In just the weeks since we printed this report, more than 1,000 people were displaced when the Burma Army shelled, attacked and then burned another village in the report’s research area. Soldiers destroyed homes, a school and a church – and then they left landmines in the village, making it dangerous for the villagers to return or rebuild.”

Even in the face of these attacks, however, tens of thousands of villagers continue to survive – through coordinated, creative and brave community attempts to protect their human rights. Burma Army practices targeting civilians and their livelihoods, however, have gravely undermined food security and health for communities in upland areas. This has created new protection concerns and seriously challenged established local self-protection strategies, prompting some individuals and communities to seek alternative means of addressing their needs.

Local capacities for, and limits to, self-protection, and the concerns and priorities that inform villagers’ choices of protection strategies, indicate potential entry points for practical attempts to improve human rights conditions across conflict areas in eastern Burma. “Anyone wishing to help villagers in these areas should start by understanding the local dynamics of abuse and community responses,” said Naw Eh Paw Htoo, KHRG spokesperson for the report. “Only such a detailed understanding can enable programmes and policies that broaden villagers’ range of feasible options for protecting their human rights, today.”

The report is available online at www.khrg.org and hard copies can be obtained by emailing khrg@khrg.org. Print-quality photos for inclusion in news articles and video footage of villagers in Karen State are also available on request.

About KHRG

The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) was founded in 1992 and documents the situation of villagers and townspeople in rural Burma through their direct testimonies, supported by photographic and other evidence. KHRG operates independently and is not affiliated with any political or other organisation. Examples of our work can be seen online at www.khrg.org.

Categories: Friends Connection
CRES warns of closing print media which distort facts and affront the monarchy
Wed, 2010-09-01 16:23
The CRES spokesperson told a press conference that certain print media have distorted information causing anxiety and rifts among the public, and presented news affronting the monarchy. The CRES will take legal action against them or close them down if necessary.

According to Matichon, on 31 Aug, Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesperson for the CRES, spoke to the press after a CRES meeting which was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban.

At the meeting, the firing of an M79 grenade into the National Broadcasting Television (NBT) station was discussed. It was assumed to be an attempt to create turmoil and make the public feel insecure in their lives and property, but not to harm anyone.

The Deputy Prime Minister instructed personnel to intensify intelligence work, to check the surveillance cameras at the NBT station, as well as those of the Expressway Authority of Thailand and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and to increase police and military forces in areas which are at risk, including, for example, transportation systems, TV stations, communities, and shopping malls, the colonel said.

It was reported at the meeting that certain print media had distorted information and presented news which bordered on offending the monarchy. The CRES has kept tabs on them, and will take legal action or close them if necessary, he said.

He mentioned as an example a ‘colour-headed’ newspaper which reported that ‘people in colours [or in uniforms] are hunting down red shirts and threatening them to stop their activities.’ Common sense tells you the ‘people in colours’ means police and military officers, and this misleads the public into thinking that the authorities are persecuting the red shirts, he said.

He said the CRES would first warn them about such reporting, and would take further legal measures if they still did not comply.

When asked whether the frequent bombings which had happened recently would affect the decision to revoke the Emergency Decree or not, Col Sansern said that currently there was no discussion about this issue, as it was under the authority of the Prime Minister.

Many have tried to accuse the authorities of being responsible for the bombings in order to create a situation to prolong the Emergency Decree, but no authorities would have done so, the colonel insisted. He dismissed such speculation as impossible.

Regarding the red shirts who have been regrouping and organizing activities, he said, ‘We’ve kept an eye on them all the time, monitoring their meetings and movements in areas where the Emergency Decree has been lifted. But we have to consider whether they act within the scope of law. If they don’t violate the law, they can [carry out their activities].’

Categories: Friends Connection
Grenade explodes in Thai government's TV station
Wed, 2010-09-01 16:19
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
A grenade believed to have been fired from an M79 grenade launcher exploded in front of the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand in Bangkok on 31 August 2010, media reports said.

Agence France Presse quoted witnesses as saying that the grenade hit a tree before exploding, damaging six cars parked nearby. No one was hurt.

It was the second grenade attack in the capital within a week's time. Another grenade, which authorities also suspected to have been fired from a similar launcher, exploded in the King Power Duty Free shop on 26 August, seriously injuring a security guard.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said, "Based on circumstantial evidence, it's likely to have been caused by an M-79 (grenade)."

"The attack was an attempt to create disturbance and to panic people and show there are loopholes in the government's measures," he added. Bangkok remains under emergency rule.

As of press time, no one has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Rattana Jarernsak, executive director of NBT, said there was no plan to evacuate. "The explosion has not really affected the journalists, and we'll continue our operation," Rattana said.

Categories: Friends Connection
Power of Walking, Power of Minds: Why Are We Walking to Pattani?
Wed, 2010-09-01 16:09
Pornpen Khongkachonkiet
I first joined the Pattani Peace Walk on 26 July 2010, and covered a distance of 28 kilometers from Prachuab Khiri Khan town to Tab-sakae district over the course of one day. I surprised myself with how much I could actually walk in a day. Life in Bangkok is different. I leave home every morning with my car key to start the engine. Then, after driving to work, I walk not even 20 steps to my office from the car.

With regards to short distances in Bangkok, even between bus stops, my response is “No way, I’d rather not.”

In addition, I was amazed by the power of the steps and minds of the members of the Pattani Peace Walk team. I have followed the teams committed to walking peacefully to Pattani beginning on 11 July 2010. I am convinced that the power of the steps and minds of the teams will help make peace real in Pattani.

Pattani is the destination of the Peace Walk. Not all teams perceive the complexity of the problem in Pattani, but everyone believes that peace can happen. Everyone knows that in order to end the conflict, they will have to stop killing each other and respect each other. They all believe that they will deliver their last steps to the people of Pattani and this will become the first step for peace in Pattani.

This will be a spark that will cause all parties to realize the importance of ending violence and creating peace together. But how can we reach this goal when some cannot see clearly? I think that as the Peace Walk teams grow closer to Pattani, each step will bring this goal closer.

The first day of the walk was the first time that I had walked such a long distance. I was advised to walk with mindfulness, to do a “Dhama Yatra” (Peace March). This way, it is possible to easily walk tens of kilometers. Someone explained that in doing a “Dhama Yatra”, it makes it possible for a group of people who are walking together to share life and principles larger than private, daily usual life. For sharing life and living, eating, and resting together as a community for one period of time makes it possible to practice mindfulness. It is simultaneously aimed to create peace in one’s heart. It is meant to create friendship and also peacefulness which can indirectly reach society.

But my heart was not at peace. All I could think about was a 16-year-old child who was detained for more than 7 days. Why have young people become the target of using and creating violence as a cycle of brutality? Isn’t this a child who should be protected? In my mind, I felt anger towards those who used children to create violence, and felt anger towards the authorities involved in suppression who want to use children as witnesses and informants, and who arrest and detain them for interrogation. Later I learned that the 16-year-old child was released after being detained and interrogated for an additional three days. That day I traveled back to Bangkok to work. But I also decided to join the walk, and to try to do so with a calmer heart.

I joined the Peace Walk for the second time for almost 200 km between the provinces of Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat. From 11 to19 August 2010 during the walk I announced (by sending SMS) that I had joined the team of Ajarn Gothom. But I didn’t hear from anyone in Pattani what they thought about the initiative. The peace walk covered more than 1100 kilometers over 50 days. There were people from the central, northern, and northeastern regions, and news of the walk was even broadcast on television a few times. There were villagers along the route who gave encouragement to the walkers and even gave us food and water. But we heard very few voices from the people in Pattani.

We did not have even one person from Pattani walking with us … We don’t let this slip through our minds.

While I was walking I heard a story via telephone that made me sad for the entire journey. A detainee died in jail of unknown causes. He was from Pa Thae sub-district, in Yaha district, in Yala province. He was arrested and had been detained for a year. When he was arrested and interrogated, he was tortured and was unconscious for two days. When he woke up, he was in a police station. After that, he was sent to jail and a case was being made against him.

As time went by, this detainee’s condition improved, but he still had to seek treatment from the hospital inside and outside the jail. When he died, his family did not give permission for the coroner to perform an autopsy, so we will never know what really killed him. It is said that he went into shock and died while alone on the day before the first day of Ramadan

Even during the month of Ramadan, which began on August 12, one continues to hear the sound of bombs and guns. We also heard the news of bombs and guns continuously while we were walking.

On the third day of the walk, I received a telephone call from Narathiwat, telling me that a suspect who was fleeing an arrest warrant had been shot dead. Previously, we had tried to help him surrender, but were unsuccessful. Many suspects lack confidence in the judicial process. There are also other factors which may cause them to choose paths other than the Thai legal system.

Every person who joins the Peace Walk will have his or her own detailed and different stories. For me, I have long been aware of the violence in the southern-most three provinces. It causes me to think about what can be done for each side to have mercy and compassion for the other sides, so they will choose nonviolence and respect for one another. Detainees in jails should receive better healthcare. The people and the authorities should have faith in peace as a way to call for what they want. How can each side become more tolerant than they are not? This is needed to make the sound of the guns and the sound of the bombs die down.

As we grew closer and closer to Pattani, brothers and sisters from Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat began to send us encouragement to keep going and keep struggling. Some said, “When you are almost here, we will walk with you also.” I received a phone call from a soldier in the area who said that he was going to join the walk to Pattani also. He sent us snacks and said to tell him if we needed People send us snacks along the way, and said to tell him if we needed anything.

This encouragement helped soothe our blistered feet, and it made us feel glad that those outside the Walk had such good wishes for us. We recognize that the Muslim brothers and sisters and the soldiers who have been in the area for 6-7 years also call for peace … although we are still working to figure out how to make this real, rather than an imagined dream.

During the walk from the Surat Thani province to Nakhon Si Thammarat, we walked on Highway 401. For much of the trip, we walked through Thai Buddhist and Muslim villagers along toast of the Gulf of Thailand. This caused us to recognize and understand the problems of the area of southern Thai referred to southern development economic plan as the Southern Seaboard, and the problems of environmental degradation, those caused by man and the nature, these problems have greatly affected the way of the life of people living along the coast. This is also made us realize that there is contention everywhere in Thailand, but in many places people can still live together without violence.

Are there paths to ending violence? And what must we do? This Peace Walk to Pattani helped spread the message of peace. Yet while we were walking, Ajarn Gothom Arya told the people we met all along the path that the Walk was only a “process.” Now, Ajarn Pramuan Phengchan (former Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University) who walked from Chiang Mai province to his hometown in Ko Samui, Surat Thani province, and wrote a book called Walk for Freedom) has used the word “tactic.”

But the way of reaching peace of each side must be done with hands, or feet, together.

Whether it is “process” or “tactic,” and whether it succeeds this time or not … How much longer will the sound of bullets of guns and bombs be louder than the call for peace? The final signal that I heard the last night was a friend from Narathiwat was going to travel to meet the Peace Walk team in Pattani on 1 September at the Pattani Central Mosque.

We hope the call for peace will truly drown out the sound of bombs, with the determination and steps of every peace-loving person in this world.

Read more information of Dhama Yatra to Pattani, please click here.

Categories: Friends Connection
Royalist group on Facebook urges DSI to prosecute a Thai singer for lèse majesté
Tue, 2010-08-31 19:23
The Network of Volunteer Citizens to Protect the Monarchy on Facebook has met the DSI Director, and provided a video clip of Tom Dundee speaking at a red-shirt rally, which they say constitutes lèse majesté.

On 30 Aug, Boworn Yasinthorn, President of the Network of Volunteer Citizens to Protect the Monarchy on Facebook met Tharit Pengdit, Director-General of the Department for Special Investigation (DSI), urging him to prosecute singer and actor Tom Dundee for his public speech at a red-shirt rally in Ratchaburi province on 8 Aug 2010.

Boworn said that Tom’s speech constituted lèse majesté and treason under Sections 112 and 116 of the Criminal Code.

The group submitted as evidence a clip of Tom Dundee’s speech which had been posted on the Youtube website.

They also asked the DSI to prosecute those who had disseminated the clip.

Tharit told them that the DSI would accept the case and investigate whether this can be construed as a conspiracy or not.

The information will be added to the database of the DSI team investigating the plot to overthrow the monarchy, Tharit said.

The clip on Youtube has been removed.

Categories: Friends Connection
THAILAND: Arbitrary detention and harassment under the Emergency Decree in Thailand
Tue, 2010-08-31 16:37
Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
In a submission to the 14th session of the Human Rights Council, the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) described the use of arbitrary orders for interrogation of civilians in army camps and other facilities under emergency regulations during the violence between state forces and antigovernment protestors in Thailand in April-May 2010 (A/HRC/14/NGO/42, 17 May 2010). Noting the relationship between open violence and the range of possible less visible rights violations, the ALRC cited the precedent set by arbitrary interrogation and expressed concern about the potential of further grave violations of human rights under the cover of the Emergency Decree. Three months after the cessation of open violence, the Emergency Decree remains in place and the denial of liberty and abuse of state power in Thailand has expanded. This has been explicitly present in the use of arbitrary detention and harassment of antigovernment protestors during June-August 2010.

Under the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in a State of Emergency (2005), the government decreed a State of Emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas on 7 April 2010. The Emergency Decree gives blanket powers to state actors to resolve the State of Emergency, including by making arrests, censoring the press, restricting movement and using armed force. On 13 May 2010, the State of Emergency was expanded to include another 12 provinces in northern, northeastern, and central Thailand; by late May, it was expanded to be in force in a total of 24 provinces across the country. Under the decree, the declaration of emergency must be renewed every three months. Therefore, on 7 July 2010, the government renewed the decree for another three months in 19 provinces. In a series of subsequent decisions, the emergency decree was revoked in a number of provinces, and at the time of writing it remains in force in seven: Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, Udon Th ani, Pathumthani and Samut Prakan. The next date of renewal of the Emergency Decree is 10 October 2010.

While noting the incremental revocation of the emergency decree, the ALRC remains concerned both about the specific conditions for detainees while the decree remains in force, as well as about the resurgence of heavy political control through security policing in Thailand of which the increasingly frequent use of emergency regulations is a key indicator.

In this submission, we draw to the attention of the Council one recent case of arbitrary detention and one of harassment of a minor under the Emergency Decree. In both cases the individuals in question have been charged with violating sections 9(1)(2) of the Emergency Decree, which prohibits gatherings of groups of five people or more, instigating unrest, disseminating information which might scare the public, or intentionally distorting information to create misunderstanding about the state of emergency to a degree that affects national security, public order or public morals.
The arrest of Mr. Sombat Boonngammanong on 27 June 2010 clearly illustrates the arbitrary nature of detention under the Emergency Decree and the threat to liberty posed by it. After the ouster of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the 19 September 2006 coup, Sombat ran a political commentary website critical of both the former PM and the military coup which ousted him.

a. On 26 June 2010, Sombat held a peaceful memorial at the site of killings that took place during the crackdown on anti-government protestors in Bangkok during April-May 2010. He tied ribbons to a signpost in remembrance of those who were killed, while some of those with him carried photographs of the violence.

b. In response, on 27 June 2010, a court issued an order for his detention under the Emergency Decree. Because he could not be detained at an ordinary detention facility under the terms of decree, he was taken to the Border Patrol Police 1st Region Command Office in Pathumthani province.

c. On 29 June 2010, Sombat filed a motion against his detention, requesting his release on the grounds that his detention was in violation of his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful gathering, as provided for in the 2007 constitution and international law. Although the court allowed the motion, on July 2 it ordered that Sombat be kept in custody for another seven days, stating that he had violated the terms of the decree prohibiting gatherings of more than five persons.

d. On 9 July 2010, Sombat was released from arbitrary detention. At this time he was formally charged with violating the Emergency Decree by assembling in a group of more than five people.

Since his release, Sombat has continued to organize events to mourn the deaths of those civilians who were killed at the Ratchaprasong intersection during the crackdown by state security forces in April-May 2010. Every Sunday, people gather to tie red ribbons and engage in cultural activities remembering the dead in Bangkok. Although there have not yet been dispersals or arrests of the participants, their activities attract a large police presence every week. In an interview with Reuters on 16 July 2010, Sombat commented that after his release he is "fearful of going home and avoids speaking over the telephone."

On 16 July 2010, five students in Chiang Rai province (four from university, and one from high school) walked around the market, the clock tower, and the entrance to the provincial hall carrying signs criticising the Emergency Decree, and reading, "I saw people killed at Ratchaprasong." On 20 July 2010, two participants, Chiang Rai University Rajabhat students Kittipong Nakakade, age 24, and Nitimethapon Muangmulkuldee, 23, as well as the high school student (name withheld), 16, were summoned and interrogated by the police.

a. On the evening of the protest, Police Lt. Col. Banyat Thamthong, Acting Deputy Provincial Police Commander of Chiang Rai, called the high school student’s mother to ask for her husband's telephone number. After the mother hung up the telephone, three men appeared at her front door and identified themselves as plainclothes police. They asked her son who had persuaded him to join the protest and looked at her son's computer. Although they asked her and her son to come with them to the police station, she refused and requested that they return with an official summons. Then, in the same evening, the police lieutenant colonel came to the house with a woman and they also searched her son's computer.

b. On the morning of 19 July 2010, police returned to the house with a summons and a search warrant. They took photos of the high school student's bedroom and seized his notebook computer. The mother was instructed to bring her son to the police station on 20 July 2010 at 10am. She did so, and her son was then ordered to report to the Juvenile Observation and Protection Centre on 21 July 2010. Under law, the centre is required to be involved in cases involving minors under the age of 18.

c. On 21 July 2010, and 30 July 2010, the high school student reported to the centre for questioning. He was asked about his family and his parents' income. He was asked about his friends and behaviour, including whether he had ever been arrested for a criminal offence, whether he drinks and smokes, whether he had modified his motorcycle, how many close friends he has, and whether he goes out late at night. In addition, he was also again asked why he joined the protest on 16 July, and advised to confess to obtain leniency from the court.

d. The high school student was ordered to return to the centre for a psychological examination on 2 August 2010. The examination took over three hours, and included answering questions and drawing and matching pictures. At the conclusion, he was instructed to report for psychotherapy for two days on 16 and 17 August 2010. This order to report for psychotherapy was made before the test results were interpreted fully. At this time, the high school student felt concerned that the timing of the psychotherapy would cause him to miss additional days of school, as he had already missed many days of school due to the interrogation and examination.

e. On 9 August 2010, the high school student and his mother met with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Bangkok. They told the NHRC all of the details of their case, including fears about surveillance and ongoing telephone intimidation and calls from the authorities.

f. On 10 August 2010, the mother received a telephone call from the Juvenile Observation and Protection Centre notifying her that she did not need to bring her son for psychotherapy on 16 and 17 August, as he had been found to be normal. The high school student still faces charges under the Emergency Decree.

The government of Thailand claims to be complying with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its application of the Emergency Decree. However, the government's rationale for the imposition of the state of emergency does not meet the minimum requirement of the Covenant that the life of the entire nation be in danger, and certain specific terms of the Emergency Decree are clearly in breach of ICCPR. Any departures from the Covenant under a state of emergency must not only be justified by exceptional circumstances but must also be temporary. Once the immediate threat has passed that led to the emergency being imposed, it must be lifted. As the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers explained in his 2007 annual report to the Human Rights Council: "The principle of temporality implies a close connection between the duration of the state of emergency and the circumstance that gave rise to its introduction. Throu gh violation of the principle of temporality states of emergency become permanent in nature, as a result of which the executive holds extraordinary powers" (A/HRC/4/25, 18 January 2007, para. 43).

The Asian Legal Resource Centre is concerned that the use of the Emergency Decree to arbitrarily detain, interrogate, and harass civilians who have carried out peaceful protests mourning the loss of life signals the expansion of the temporary state of emergency to a more entrenched, potentially unending state of emergency. The case of the high school student in Chiang Rai who was ordered to undergo psychological examination is of particular concern as it indicates the emergence of a strategy not only to criminalize dissent in Thailand but also to use the medical profession as a tool of oppression.

The life of the entire nation is not in danger and the continued use of the emergency decree poses a significant threat to liberty and human rights in Thailand. The ALRC therefore calls upon the Human Rights Council to condemn the continued application of the Emergency Decree as a breach of the State party's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and as a cause for further violations of rights under international law. It also calls for the Council to urge that the government of Thailand provide full access not only to family members and lawyers of persons detained in connection with the recent political unrest in the country, irrespective of whether they be detained under the Emergency Decree or under ordinary criminal law, but also to international monitors, including the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Finally, the government of Thailand must extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for a formal visit to the country that would include an investigation of the recent killings in Bangkok. Successive administrations in Thailand have assiduously ignored the standing request for a visit that the rapporteur first made after the deaths in custody of 78 men in army trucks in the south of the country in 2004--for which no one was ever punished--and the persistent failure of the government to respect the rapporteur's request speaks to the lack of seriousness with which it appears to treat its obligations under the ICCPR.

Fifteenth session, Agenda Item 4

A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status

# # #

About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

Categories: Friends Connection
ASIAN Election Monitoring Organizations question unfair practices in the Burma Electoral process
Tue, 2010-08-31 16:33
Asian Network for Free Elections Foundation (ANFREL)
In barely two months time elections will be held in Burma generating significant attention worldwide. The Union Election Commission (UEC) has announced on 13th August that the “multiparty elections in Burma will be held on November 7, 2010.” There have been a number of developments in the days preceding the announcement of the Election date, which deserves serious attention from all democracy supporting citizens of the world.

From it’s position as a regional election observation group which supports the process of democratization through a free and fair electoral process, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) considers it important to make its position clear in the larger interest of democracy in Burma. First and foremost, it must be made clear that election observation is possible only if the conditions provided are free and fair and are in sync with the international principles guiding a democratic electoral process.

In this context ANFREL and other election monitoring organizations within the ASEAN and also those that share similar concerns in Asia have called for a review of the election regulations, orders and practices on electoral contests, which pertains to respecting the basic rights of parties, candidates and voters. The UEC of Burma must stop all attempts by political parties to misuse state resources in their favour and also for their campaign failing which, the UEC’s actions cannot be considered neutral and non-partisan.

Over the last one month records speak for themselves on how there have been undue restrictions on campaigns by certain political parties and alliances, which clearly violates the three basic rights—freedom of expression, assembly and association. These are the basic tenets of democracy and have to be upheld at any cost.

In any democratic process all parties and candidates should have the right to comment or criticize other parties on their policies and their performances in the past. Opposition party and new parties must be given sufficient room to fully showcase and introduce themselves to people in any public without threat, obstruction or violence.

A case in point of how a single party has had unfair advantage over others is that of the United Solidarity Democratic Party (USDP) which is proxy of USDA and the military. This political party has had much more opportunity than other parties in meeting people, directly or indirectly in introducing their members. This party has been accused of using state facilities and human resources for their campaign.

The unfair advantage the USDP enjoys in terms of their political status and powers to recruit members either by manipulative tactics or by force are unacceptable. Their media control and populist policies, which have been designed to favour the USDP, needs to be questioned as it gives them an unfair advantage over the other parties.

The way things have shaped up during the run up to the election undoubtedly indicates that the UEC is not able to work independently or freely, which is a reflection of its composition that is 17 commissioners selected by the junta. Aside from this, the 12 organizations which are signatory to this statement have all indicated that the Burma election will not be credible owing to the following reasons:

1. The military is too involved in the election
2. The media is not free and under total control and censorship
3. Lack of transparency in absentee voting, advance voting and counting ballot papers especially the restriction on local observers.
4. Absence of a mechanism in checking the voter list to prevent phantom voting, double or multiple votes.

Finally the speculation that the election has been timed in a way that it is held before the release of Burma’s democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has also led to leading election observation groups raising serious questions about the credibility of the ensuing election.

Taking into consideration all election related developments that have taken place so far these organizations led by the oldest body in Asia, NAMFREL, have concluded that the election in Burma may not be acceptable to the international community since every single development in Burma provides a strong indication of the fact that the military junta is doing all but to hold a democratic election. The objective of the military seems to be clear that is to win the coming election at all cost.

The following organizations have also called on the ASEAN to review such doubtful forms of electoral processes and ensure that any democratic election must be more inclusive.

NAMFREL– Philippines
Poll Watch Foundation – Thailand
NIEI –Malaysia
KIPP – Indonesia
NEOC– Nepal
PSPD– South Korea
AIHR- Regional Organization
ANFREL- Asian Network-Bangkok Office

Categories: Friends Connection
Wife of the Disappeared
Mon, 2010-08-30 20:53
There have been several cases of enforced disappearance in the southern border provinces, with the latest case being that of Doromae Laelae, 46, in March 2010 in Pattani. The case of Mayateng Marano, a janitor at Bang Lang village school, Bannang Sata district, Yala, was brought to court after he had been missing for two years, in accordance with Section 61 of the Civil and Commercial Code, and the provincial court declared him to be a missing person.

The last time that Mayateng was with his family was noon on 24 June 2007, when a group of military officers took him away from his house, along with a pickup truck, a pistol and a mobile phone, right in front of all his family members.

He has never returned since, although local military personnel insisted that he had been released.

‘After the court ruled that he was a missing person on 8 Oct 2009, I brought the ruling to the Deputy Provincial Governor of Yala, and he said that [her husband] should fall into the category of affected state officials and [the family] should get 500,000 baht as financial assistance,’ said Somahidoh, the wife of Mayateng.

She had hoped to use this money to pay off her husband’s debt of 780,000 baht, but she was disappointed.

The Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre subcommittee which considers assistance grants to those affected by the southern unrest told her that her husband’s case did not qualify, as it lacked endorsements from the police, military and administrative authorities.

She was further dispirited by the news that the government’s employment programme which had hired her for 4,500 baht a month would finish.

Fortunately, she has occasionally received help from her neighbours, relatives and other wives of the disappeared, as well as military and state officers.

A few days after her husband was declared a missing person, she received 50,000 baht from Lt Gen Kasikorn Kirisri, Commander of the Combined Civilian, Police and Military Force, and another 50,000 baht for the education of her two children from the Bannang Sata District Officer. 27,000 baht was spent to buy half a rai, or 0.4 acre, to grow rubber trees for her children.

She afterwards asked for 30,000 baht from the general to build a toilet. He gave her that, plus 10,000 baht to buy bicycles for her children to go to school. A portion of the money was allotted for food, she said.

Some NGOs also gave her 10,000 baht. Dr Petchdow Tomeena, Director of the 15th Songkhla Mental Health Centre and a daughter of the renowned Muslim politician Den Tomeena, repeatedly visited her and gave her a few thousand baht each time.

‘When I was really penniless, I would call this and that person to ask for money bluntly, as I was really at my wit’s end. I was overwhelmingly anxious. Very anxious that the house and property would be seized,’ she said.

She would go by herself to ask for help from those with high rank and status, as she did not want to bother anyone to accompany her. She had only the faintest idea of how to behave in meeting those people, but she could not care less.

Upon hearing the news that the government scheme which has paid her 4,500 baht a month will be scrapped this September, she went to ask Lt Gen Kasikorn for help. All that the general could do, however, was to give instructions to his subordinates, because he himself got wind of being transferred to Bangkok.

‘He told me to buy about 3 rai of land to grow rubber trees. He would pay for the land and the rubber trees. But so far I have not been able to find the land to buy,’ she said.

Since the disappearance of her husband, she has never stayed at that house. She goes back there from time to time, but would not stay the night at the solitary farm house, except for one night when she was accompanied by friends and relatives.

Currently, she lives with her father at Kalo village in Raman district, Yala, which is her hometown. She lives in a new house next to her father’s with her two children.

The new house is so hot and stuffy that she has to always go out.

‘Sometimes I feel very distressed. Don’t know what to do. Miss him. Always miss him. Sometimes I have to wander around. I want to go to the forest, the fields. Don’t want to go to anybody’s house,’ she said.

So distressed, she cannot sleep and has to take sedatives. She has to see a psychiatrist at Raman District Hospital on a monthly basis. The doctor instructs her to take the pills regularly.

Teachers at her husband’s school always pressure her on the phone to sell her house and land to pay off the debt her husband owed to the cooperative.

‘I feel distressed every time they call. And they always call to pressure me. Now the debt remains the same. I’ve never paid one baht,’ she said.

Out of her husband’s debt of 780,000 baht, 500,000 is owed to the Teachers’ Cooperative, 100,000 baht to the Savings Bank, 20,000 to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, with the rest borrowed from local creditors, plus interest of about 10,000.

She earns little more than 100 baht a day from being hired as a rubber tapper. From this wage, 50 baht is for the eldest child to go to school, and 20-30 baht for the youngest who is in kindergarten.

She herself has to depend on the circumstances; if one day there is food, she eats, if not, she starves. Sometimes she is given some food by her father or elder sister. She and her children have survived largely thanks to the help of relatives and neighbours.

‘I’ve always thought what job I would do. I thought of opening a grocery shop, but there were many grocery shops already. I thought of selling things because when my husband was alive, I had a food and candy stall at the school. And I thought that I was quite capable of being a seller. But now I have no idea how to start. Still distressed. And it would need money to start,’ she said.

The image of Mayateng being taken away by the military three years ago is also impressed on the memory of her children as well, as they were there at the scene.

Her eldest son, Ruslan, 15, studies Grade 8 at a private Islamic school which also teaches general subjects. The other son, Imron, 5, is at kindergarten.

‘Since the disappearance of my husband, my sons have always been sick. The eldest son has been depressive and lifeless, sometimes even missing school for several days. I asked him why he was sick. He said he missed his father,’ she said.

Once, in the run-up to Father’s Day, 5 Dec, she saw her youngest son running home from school in tears. He told her that his teacher had asked pupils to raise their hands if they had no father. He did not raise his hand, but ran home.

‘The teacher should not have asked the pupils that. He could never have known how fatherless children would feel when asked that,’ she said.