By KORNRAWEE PANYASUPPAKUN
Great tragedies such as the bloody student uprising in October 1973 and the Thammasat University massacre in October 1976, in which the military turned its guns towards civilians, should not be repeated, Somchai Homlaor, president of Transitional Justice Thailand, pointed out.
Every human is entitled to his or her rights, that cannot be abused or taken away by the state even during war, said Somchai, who is also a well-known human-rights lawyer.
He was speaking at an event marking the 70th anniversary of human rights declaration held by Srinakharinwirot University, Amnesty International, Cross Cultural Foundation and Asia Justice and Rights over the weekend.
He pointed out that even though the government has earmarked huge amounts and given many officials the responsibility to “protect, and promote human rights of citizens”, the state’s efforts in this aspect remain flawed, he said.
“In fact, there are not-so-few cases of state officials themselves being the violators of human rights,” he said, citing the political conflicts between the yellow and the red shirts, as well as the insurgency in Thailand’s deep South over the past decade.
Somchai said that structural reforms barring military dictatorship from Thai politics were necessary to stop a repetition of bloody incidents such those in 1973, 1976, 1992 and the most recent 2010 red-shirt protests, he said.
These events only turned into bloodbaths when the Army turned its guns on civilians.
He added that four measures were needed to ease all conflicts: fact-finding; rehabilitation of those affected by the violence including their families; fair prosecution and rehabilitation to return |the prosecuted to society; and structural reform.
Fact-finding is the first step to foster peace and move forward as each camp had a different understanding of truth, he explained.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was established as a result of World War II and the genocide that took place in different regions of Europe, East Asia and Asia-Pacific, he said.
In Thailand, thousands of prisoners of war died while building the “Death Railway” in Kanchanaburi during World War II.
“It is the greatest and most extensive violation [of human rights],” he said.
He pointed out that the key to peace is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ Article 1 – that all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights. He said every person is endowed with reason and a conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.