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State officials behind 90% of rights violations

Dec 11. 2018
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By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE NATION

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NHRC blames difference in understanding; expert puts it down to abuse of power.

OVER 90 per cent of the human rights violations in Thailand were committed by state officials, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) revealed yesterday, adding that it is getting worse. 

Human-rights activists said that violations by Thai authorities are increasing as government opponents are regularly prosecuted, arrested and even tortured.

What Tingsamitr, NHRC chairman, said yesterday that despite being one of the first nations to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and having a Constitution and laws that guarantee the protection of the rights, liberty and dignity of all persons, human-rights violation still remains a problem in Thailand. 

He was speaking at an event held in Bangkok yesterday to mark International Human Rights Day.

He said rights violations in the country continue because the five key stakeholders – the authorities, citizens, civil-society organisations, NHRC and international human-rights agencies – all have different definitions.

He said that even though state officials commit 90 per cent of human rights violations against citizens, each of the five primary stakeholders have violated the rights of other stakeholders and created conflicts due to a lack of mutual understanding about where rights end and duties begin. 

What said all stakeholders should refrain from violating the rights of others, so the country can go down the path of sustainable development in harmony. 

However, Cross Cultural Foundation director Pornpen Khongkachonkiet argued that the root of the problem did not lie in misunderstandings, but came from the abuse of power and an absence of the rule of law.

“It is clear that most of the rights violations in Thailand occur in the same pattern – officials violating the rights of people. We have witnessed that again and again. When someone opposes the government and their policies, state officials turn on these people,” Pornpen said.

She cited the oppression of environmental and political activists as the clearest examples of human-rights violation by the state. For instance, she said, forest communities were forcibly evicted by the military because they opposed the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s reclamation operation. Also many political activists who campaigned against the junta have been arrested and taken into military custody without charges.

Disappearances

She further noted that rights violations against those who oppose the authorities are far more severe in cases related to the stability of the state and the monarchy.

“We have found that several suspected insurgents in the South have been arrested, detained in a military camp and even tortured, while many prominent rights defenders, such as Somchai Neelapaijit who worked as lawyer for those accused of southern insurgency, were forcibly abducted and disappeared,” Pornpen said.

She emphasised that the key problems include a lack of proper investigation, court litigation and punishment against officers who commit these crimes. 

She put this down to a partisan culture within the justice system, which allows so many offending officers to walk free and even keep their job in official agencies.

“The not-so-free atmosphere under the NCPO dictatorship, the problem of human rights violation by the state, is worse than ever,” she said. “I only hope the upcoming election will bring us a more open society and freedom, and fix this grave issue.” 

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