ASEAN MPs call for immediate halt to arbitrary detentions and human rights violations by Thailand’s ruling military junta
Parliamentarians from across ASEAN today slammed Thailand’s military rulers, accusing them of widespread human rights abuses and calling for the immediate release of all persons detained for political reasons and for the ruling junta to respect basic human rights.
“Thailand’s military has set about purging all political opponents, and has been responsible for a swathe of human rights abuses since seizing power in a military coup. These abuses must be reversed immediately and permanently,” said APHR President Eva Kusuma Sundari.
Hundreds of people have been arbitrarily detained by the Thai military in less than a week, the media placed under heavy censorship and intimidation, and basic rights including freedom of assembly curtailed.
“We have witnessed one of the most shocking and rapid deteriorations in the human rights situation in any country in our region in a long time; one that demands an immediate and concerted response from all concerned parties,” said Ms. Sundari.
Thailand’s political crisis cannot be remedied by the persecution of people on basis of political affiliation or ideology, APHR said. APHR takes no stand on the country’s deep political divisions but asserts that such a heavy-handed and draconian response is illegal, unwarranted and deeply flawed: it will only worsen the situation, not remedy it.
APHR is extremely concerned by the arbitrary detentions and intimidation of hundreds of politicians, activists, academics and ordinary citizens that has seen hundreds of people summonsed to report to the military under threat of imprisonment and fines. Many of those that have reported have been taken away to unknown locations and held incommunicado and without charge. Others have fled the country.
“What we are witnessing here appears to be a wholesale purge of a political class and the beginning of a witch-hunt against anyone who opposes the military’s seizure of power or their vision for the future of the country,” warned Walden Bello, Philippines Congressman and APHR Vice President.
Bello urged an immediate return to civilian and democratic rule, saying that the coup in Thailand threatens the momentum towards democracy in ASEAN and poses a threat to the consolidation of democratic rule in those countries that have embraced democracy.
The military has also announced it will try all cases linked to crimes against the monarchy or deemed to be related to national security under Military Court, which does not permit civilian defendants to nominate their own legal representation.
APHR is concerned that the military appears set on continuing with its ruthless purge of all dissent against its rule, and that Thailand could soon be home to hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
APHR called on the ruling military administration to immediately make available a list of all persons detained under martial law, there whereabouts and reasons for their detention. Anyone being detained must be given access to family members, lawyers and be charged under civilian courts with a recognizable crime or immediately released.
“There is a dark future ahead for Thailand if it becomes one where words and ideas are enough to have you locked away by a military court. We implore all Thai parliamentarians, regardless of party-affiliation, to recognize this threat and speak out against these most serious threats to basic freedoms,” he added.
“For Thailand to move forward it needs to embark on an inclusive and open national debate that takes into account a wide range of ideas and ideologies. This cannot happen under the current climate,” added Mr. Bello.
APHR is concerned that detainees are being held incommunicado in non-official detention centers, raising the risk of torture and other abuses. There is particular concern regarding at least 30 individuals that have been detained for alleged involvement in past or previous politically-motivated attacks.
APHR recognizes that impunity for political violence has been a major driving factor in the deterioration of Thailand’s political crisis and urges the authorities to follow up on investigation and prosecution for all politically motivated crimes over recent months and years.
However, APHR is concerned that the military is not following due process and that the arbitrary detention of such suspects in non-official detention centers – with no access to lawyers or relatives – raises the risk of torture. APHR calls on the military authorities to charge any suspects with recognizable crimes and permit them a fair trial in a civilian court.
Under martial law the military has powers to detain persons for up to seven days without charge or warrant, and is not liable to provide compensation to those affected by actions of personnel enforcing military law. This is not in line with international human rights standards.
APHR is concerned that the authorities are cracking down on peaceful dissent, including by instructing media not to air material critical of the military’s actions or to interview persons who may criticize the military or the current political situation.
“It is truly a worrying situation in Thailand. We are seeing academics and intellectuals fleeing the country in fear of persecution, ordinary citizens arrested, and armed soldiers raiding houses in the middle of the night,” said Charles Santiago, Malaysian MP and APHR Member.
“We are compelled to speak out at this time. There is no justification, security or otherwise, for such abuses on such a wide scale. The military junta must desist from these acts immediately or face international and regional condemnation and repercussions.”
While many Thais may be in favor of the military putsch, and view it as a means to bringing temporary stability to a fractious country, the military leadership has a duty and responsibility to protect and preserve the rights of all citizens of Thailand, not just those that don’t disagree with them, APHR said.
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) is a collective of lawmakers from Southeast Asia working to improve human rights responses and social justice in the region.
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