Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

Gwangju award for human rights defender Pai Dao Din upsets Thai government

May 10, 2017

The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs gets upset easily as shown by the reaction to the granting of the 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights (South Korea) to detained student activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, better known as Pai Dao Din. He has been in prison in Khon Kaen on lese majeste and computer crime charges since 22 December 2015, when 10 Khon Kaen University’s students from “Dao Din” group were arrested at the Khon Kaen Democracy Monument.

Pai Dao Din a day after the Khon Kaen court denied him bail again (FB/Jom Petchpradab)
Now the Thai ambassador to Seoul has written to the human rights award giver in South Korea asking it to ‘reconsider ‘ honouring jailed activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa.

In a copy of the letter was acquired by the Bangkok Post (copy below):

The detained defender had been hoping to make bail so he could attend the award presentation ceremony in person, but his request was denied. In refusing Mr Jatupat’s bail requests, the Region 4 court and Khon Kaen Provincial Court described him as a flight risk who could tamper with evidence. The laureate is thus unlikely to be abel to travel on 18 May to the award ceremony in Gwangju and Mr Jatupat’s mother Prim Boonpattararaksa and her husband Viboon will represent their son and receive the award on his behalf.

National Human Rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who won the Gwangju Award for Human Rights in 2006, described it as a prestigious accolade.

Source: Envoy queries Korea award for Jatupat | Bangkok Post: news

Lifetime Achievements in Human Rights: 4 Human Rights Defenders

February 24, 2017

Anna Neistat, Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International, writes in the Huffington Post of 23 February 2017 about 4 Human Rights Defenders who deserve a “Lifetime Achievements” Oscar. Since it’s awards season, Amnesty International is paying tribute to four human rights heroes whose dramatic stories could – and should – be made into movies:

Itai Peace Dzamara

It’s been almost two years since Zimbabwean journalist and activist Itai Peace Dzamarawas dragged from a barbers’ chair by five armed men while he was getting a haircut.  Dzamara, the leader of a pro-democracy movement called “Occupy Africa Unity Square”, had long been considered an enemy of the state by the Zimbabwean government. Just two days before his abduction he had delivered a speech at an opposition rally in Harare, calling for mass action against the deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe. If this were a movie, justice would have been done long ago. Dzamara would have been returned to his wife and children, and the men who abducted him held accountable. But this isn’t Hollywood. This is Zimbabwe, where basic rights and freedoms have been trampled on throughout the long years of Robert Mugabe’s reign. As Itai Peace Dzamara and his family know, anyone who dares to speak out is a target for intimidation, harassment and arrest, and there’s no happy ending in sight. Despite a court ruling ordering state security agents to investigate Dzamara’s disappearance, there were gaps in the investigation and his whereabouts remains a mystery. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/05/itai-dzamaras-disappearance-worrying-for-all-human-rights-defenders-in-zimbabwe/]

Berta Cáceres 

GOLDMAN ENVIRONMENTAL FOUNDATION
 

Like the audience of a horror movie, the people around Berta could see that terrible danger was coming her way – but they were powerless to stop it. Honduras has the highest number of killings per capita of environmental and land activists in the world. The vast majority of these killings go unsolved and unpunished. One story that really stands out in this deadly context is that of Berta Cáceres. Berta was the leader and co-founder of an organisation that was campaigning against the construction of a hydroelectric project on the ancestral lands of indigenous communities in Honduras.  In the early hours of 2 March 2016, she was murdered in her own home. Berta knew that she was putting her life in danger, but she was willing to take the risk to stand up for indigenous communities.  Like the audience of a horror movie, the people around Berta could see that terrible danger was coming her way – but they were powerless to stop it. Despite the stark warning that her death served, environmental activists in Honduras say that stopping their work is not an option – no-one else will defend their communities and rights. They continue Berta’s work every day, reminding us that we should never take freedom for granted. It is essential that Berta’s assassination is solved, to show that there is a price to pay for attacking and killing environmental activists. Berta’s story ended in tragedy, but we will not stop fighting until we are sure that other activists will not meet the same fate. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/07/exceptional-response-from-ngo-world-on-killing-of-berta-caceres/]

Sirikan Charoensiri

Sirikan Charoensiri, also known as “June”, is a young lawyer who has bravely stood up for human rights during a dark period of military rule in Thailand. In June 2015, she was on hand at a peaceful protest by pro-democracy student activists in Bangkok to monitor the situation and provide legal representation, if necessary.  She now finds herself facing sedition charges and a potential trial in a military court alongside her clients. She also faces charges in two additional cases relating to her defence of the student activists and could be imprisoned for up to 15 years. As the Thai authorities have escalated their crackdown in the name of security, people who stand up for human rights in the country are increasingly falling foul of a government intent on silencing dissent. As June herself put it: “There is now an environment where risk is visible and imminent.” [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/international-day-of-women-human-rights-defenders-agents-of-change-under-pressure/]

Narges Mohammadi

Narges is a prisoner of conscience who should be lauded, not locked up, for her human rights work. In Iran, human rights defenders and other peaceful critics are subject to relentless harassment. Over the past year, those jailed after shockingly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts including lawyers, bloggers, students, women’s rights activists, filmmakers and even musicians.  Human rights defender Narges Mohammadi knows better than most how vengeful the Iranian authorities can be towards anyone who dissents. She is currently serving a total of 22 years in prison for speaking out against issues such as Iran’s prolific use of the death penalty and acid attacks on women. What makes her situation even worse is that she is critically ill and cannot receive proper medical care in prison. Just as cruelly, the authorities have at times denied her access to her young children, who had to leave Iran to live with their father in France after she was jailed. Narges is a prisoner of conscience who should be lauded, not locked up, for her human rights work. We will continue to fight until she is free.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/12/retaliation-against-iranian-human-rights-defender-for-meeting-with-ashton/]

Itai, Berta, Sirikan and Narges are just a handful of the outstanding human rights defenders around the world who deserve recognition, but have instead been silenced by forces of cruelty, injustice and repression.

Source: Lifetime Achievements: Paying Tribute to 4 Human Rights Heroes | The Huffington Post

‘FOR THOSE WHO DIED TRYING’ Photo Exhibit on human rights defenders in Thailand by Protection International

January 16, 2017

exhibit 2

Protection International opened the photo exhibition, ‘For those who died trying’ on the Place des Nations in Geneva on Monday, 9 May 2016. The exhibition run from 9-11 May and presented the photographs of 37 murdered or abducted human rights defenders in Thailand. It has toured or will be touring various countries (e.g. Thailand, Brussels, Pamplona) and as from 22 January 2017 a small town in the Netherlands, Dordrecht (www.defendersindordrecht.org), houses the images.

The project looks to remember those who died defending human rights and protecting the environment by placing a portrait of the human rights defender, where possible, at the exact place he or she was murdered or abducted. It is vital, for the victims and their families, that their fight and their death is not forgotten and left un-recognised. Ultimately, those responsible must be brought to justice. Recognising those who died trying as HRDs and a better administration of justice are critical steps to end these killings.

More information can be downloaded here: ‘For those who died trying’ photo exhibition.

see related: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/02/new-on-line-memorial-to-remember-killed-human-rights-defenders/amp/

 

Andy Hall, British labour labour rights defender, flees Thailand

November 7, 2016

 

British rights activist Andy Hall leaves the Bangkok South Criminal Court
Andy Hall – Image copyright REUTERS

On 7 November 2016, the BBC, Reuters and other media reported that labour rights defender Andy Hall has left Thailand after a three-and-a-half year legal battle with a pineapple processing company accused, in a report he contributed to, of abusing its workforce. The dismissal of one set of charges against the British activist was confirmed by Thailand’s Supreme Court last week. But he was convicted in September on two other counts under sweeping criminal defamation and computer crimes laws and was given a three-year suspended prison sentence. He also faces civil complaints by the pineapple company, Natural Fruit, which is demanding around $12m in damages.

But it was mostly the prospect of further criminal charges over another group of workers he is supporting that persuaded Mr Hall that he should leave Thailand and not returner the time being. He and the 14 migrant workers from Myanmar – who have alleged abusive treatment at the hands of a farm which supplied the big Thai poultry processor, Betagro, with chickens – recently had defamation lawsuits filed against them. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/andy-hall/]

Before he left Thailand Mr Hall told the BBC that he felt that the prospect of having to contest continuous lawsuits filed against him would make it impossible for him to defend migrant workers’ rights effectively. The situation for human rights defenders, he said in a statement made as he prepared to depart, has rapidly deteriorated in Thailand, with significantly increased risks.

The challenge confronting Mr Hall is one faced by many Thai activists as well. Defamation is a criminal charge that can carry a two-year prison sentence, often used alongside the even tougher Computer Crimes Act, which mandates a sentence of up to five years in prison.

  • Two years ago, the editors of a small newsletter, Phuketwan, were prosecuted by the Thai navy for an article in which they quoted a Reuters news agency report alleging Thai military involvement in human trafficking. They were finally acquitted last year, but the effort of defending themselves contributed to the newsletter being shut down.
  • In June this year three prominent human rights defenders were prosecuted under the same two laws by a unit of the Thai military over a report they took part in which alleged the use of torture against military detainees in southern Thailand.

On Thursday 3 November, the U.N. Human Rights office in Bangkok issued a statement praising the Supreme Court’s decision. But it also called on the Thai government “to drop charges against all human rights defenders who have been charged with criminal offenses for reporting human rights violations in accordance with its obligations under international human rights law.

On 6 October EU Trade Commissioner Cecilie Malmström had strongly backed the British labour rights activist who helped expose labour abuses in Thailand, for which he received a three-year suspended jail sentence. Andy Hall met Malmström in Strasbourg, where MEPs also passed a strong resolution condemning Hall’s treatment under the military junta now running the country.

Sources:

Thai Supreme Court Dismisses Defamation Claim Against Labor Activist – Malaysia Sun

 Andy Hall, British labour rights activist, flees Thailand – BBC News

Malmström backs EU whistleblower over Thai labour rights

Thai court finds Andy Hall – British human rights defender – guilty of defamation

September 20, 2016

A Thai court found British labor activist, Andy Hall, guilty of defaming a fruit canning company, and gave him a suspended prison sentence in a case that has raised serious concerns among human rights workers and free speech advocates. He was found guilty of criminal defamation against Natural Fruit Company Ltd. in connection with a 2013 report he researched for the Finnish consumer organization Finnwatch that alleged labour abuses at the company’s facilities. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/defamation-charges-against-hall-will-chill-labor-rights-in-thailand-says-human-rights-watch/]

Andy-Hall-court

The case raises questions about Thailand’s punitive criminal defamation laws and the ease of being condemned for violating the Computer Crimes Act because the information was posted on the internet. Hall was given a suspended sentence of three years with a probationary period of two years, and a fine of 150,000 baht ($4,300). He said he will appeal the ruling. He was allowed to go free after his fine was paid. Two civil suits by the company against him are pending, as is an appeal against his acquittal on a previous criminal defamation charge.

I don’t feel any shame, I don’t feel any regret. But I feel it is an injustice, what’s happened here today,” Hall said. “I respect the decision of the court, but I feel real injustice, not for me, it’s not about me, this case was never about me, it was never about Andy Hall doing research about migrant workers. It was about a human rights activist doing research for the public interest.”

Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch, said her organization was “shocked by today’s verdict.” “The report was authored and published by Finnwatch; we take full responsibility for it,” Vartiala said. “Andy has been made a scapegoat in order to stifle other voices that speak out legitimately in support of migrant worker rights.” “This is a sad day for freedom of expression in Thailand,” … “We fear that many other human rights defenders and victims of company abuse will be scared to silence by this ruling.”

Finnwatch was not sued, nor was the Al Jazeera news network, to whom Hall gave an interview that was the basis for part of the cases against him.

Virat Piyapornpaiboon, the owner of Natural Fruit, said justice was done. “I think that it’s not important whether he goes to jail or not, but what’s important is whether or not what he said was true,” Virat said. “This is proof that no matter who you are, if you are not just and you make up stories and cause damage to others, you must be punished.

Source: Thai Court Finds British Activist Guilty of Defamation – The New York Times

https://business-humanrights.org/en/thailand-court-finds-migrant-rights-defender-andy-hall-guilty-of-defamation

http://sea-globe.com/british-activist-andy-hall-found-guilty-defamation-thai-court/

Regional update for ASIA

February 29, 2016

A regional update on Asia is based on a submission to United Nations’ Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (15 February) and a report of the Regional Consultation of Citizens’ Voices held in Kathmandu (25/26 February) held under the aegis of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR).

The Asian Legal Resource Centre directs the attention of the Human Rights Council to the critical situation of human rights defenders in China, Bangladesh, and Thailand, who are facing dire threats to their person and profession: Read the rest of this entry »

‘Just Asia’ just continues with its human rights television

January 21, 2016

I have not referred to this excellent initiative for a while. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) continues it visual reporting, Now already episode 106!: Read the rest of this entry »

Thailand returns recognized refugees to China (and falsely claims they did not know about their status)

December 8, 2015

Anneliese Mcauliffe in Al Jazeera on 6 December 2015 reported that two Chinese human rights defenders recognised as UN refugees were forcibly deported from Thailand to China last month and have appeared on Chinese state-run television and confessed to human-trafficking offenses. CCTV reported that Jiang Yefei was arrested for “assisting others to illegally cross the national border”, and Dong Guangping was charged with using a trafficking network to flee China while awaiting trial on sedition charges. It was the first time the two men were seen since being taken from a detention centre in the Thai capital Bangkok in November and deported to China.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk about (self)censorship under the junta

June 19, 2015

On 26 May 2015, at the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum, Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk describes his fight for democracy in his home country following the May 2014 military coup. Talking about his own arrest, Rojanaphruk denounces the limitations to the right to assembly, expression and movement in Thailand, as well as the regime’s efforts to build the illusion of a happy Thailand. Rojanaphruk concludes his presentation by reminding us that tolerance and dialogue are essential if Thailand is to become a democracy again.

for more on Thailand: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/thailand/

Human rights defender Chai Bunthonglek killed at home in Thailand

February 12, 2015

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped reports that on 11 February 2015, land rights defender Mr Chai Bunthonglek was shot and killed at his home in Chaiburi District, Thailand, by an unknown man. Reportedly, the perpetrator fired six bullets at the human rights defender.

[Chai Bunthonglek was a member of the Southern Peasants’ Federation of Thailand – SPFT, a network formed in 2008 to campaign for the right to agricultural land. Chai Bunthonglek is the fourth member of SPFT who has been killed. On 19 November 2012, Ms Montha Chukaew and Ms Pranee Boonrat were shot by unknown individuals near the village of Khlong Sai Pattana in Surat Thani Province. In 2010, Ms Somporn Pattaphum was also shot dead in the area.]

The killing follows the recent incommunicado detention of Mr Pianrat Boonrit, the President of SPFT, on 3 February 2015. The human rights defender was released by the military on 5 February 2015, reportedly on condition that he would mediate between the army and the Premsub Community, and urge the community to leave the area. Allegedly, Pianrat Boonrit was threatened with seven days’ detention if he did not convince the community to leave the land. The human rights defender had been arrested and detained when he presented himself at the Vibhavadi Rangsit Military Camp, Surat Thani Province, in response to a summons to attend an “attitude adjustment camp” for three days.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the killing of Chai Bunthonglek, which it believes to be directly linked to his peaceful and legitimate work in the defence of land rights. Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity and security of Pianrat Boonrit and other members of SPFT.

The plight of land rights defenders was the focus of the annual report of the Observatory last year, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/2014-annual-report-observatory-land-rights-defenders-are-the-forgotten-victims-of-unbridled-development/