By THE NATION
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday launched an event that was supposed to promote human rights with hundreds of people in attendance, including 55 diplomats, other representatives of foreign governments and international organisations.
Many foreigners at the event told that while they cautiously supported the government’s moves on promoting human rights, they were also maintaining a close interest in its commitment to and compliance with human-rights principles in line with international obligations.
“Thailand’s junta leader should not think that polite attendance by diplomats at an event promoting a human rights agenda will trick them into believing that repression is no longer a daily reality in Thailand,” said Brad Adams, HRW Asia director. “Rather than restoring respect for human rights and returning the country to democratic rule, the junta has persecuted critics and dissidents, banned peaceful public assembly, censored the media and suppressed free speech.”
Prayut said human rights had to be carried out based on “laws and respect of others”.
“What’s important is that human rights must not be an excuse to infringe on other people’s rights,” he said. “The government will harshly punish those violating human rights, but please differentiate between violations of rights and the breaking of laws. There is a fine line between them.”
Rights violations are a daily reality under the military ruling since 2014 coup, with activists being subjected to strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) just for exercising basic freedoms.
The NGO went on to blame the junta National Council for Peace and Order for enforcing censorship with media outlets facing intimidation, punishment and even closure if they publish commentary critical of the junta and the monarchy.
Most recently, on February 6 Peace TV was forced off the air for 15 days for criticising military rule.
Authorities have prosecuted hundreds of critics and dissidents on criminal charges such as sedition and computer-related crimes for the peaceful expression of opinions. Public gatherings of more than five people and anti-coup activities are prohibited, HRW stated.
Police also recently charged 39 pro-democracy activists with illegal assembly for attending a peaceful rally on January 27, which urged the government to meet its pledge to hold elections in 2018. Nine also face sedition charges for giving speeches at the rally.