Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree
Dr Sriprapha is the Thai Representative to the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR). She is an academic at the Center for Human Rights Studies and Social Development based in Mahidol University, Thailand.
On 14 May 2010, just one day after Thailand was elected with land slide majority of 182 votes out of 192 members of the United Nations (UN) to sit in the UN Human Rights Council (of which the total number of members is 47), the Thai government seriously breached its own commitments and pledges made during the campaign for the seat.
In the campaign to join the Human Rights Council, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva informed the international community that “…I can reaffirm that this Government will address problems relating to freedom and liberty and human rights on the basis of accepting them as reality. This is the first crucial step so that every agency, including civil society, recognizes the need to cooperate in seriously solving the problems…if the Government or state officials do not learn how to respect human rights themselves, problems will never end. What I would like to see from now on is right understanding and right perspective, and to push ahead in the promotion and protection of human rights…”.
The Prime Minister further confirmed that “I am confident that even if obstacles still remain in the economic, social, political or legal aspects, but if people are ready to reach out to one another as fellow human beings, that will be the beginning of our success in ensuring the effective enjoyment and safeguard of human and freedom and liberty”.
Although it’s hard to deny that the National United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has gone far beyond the limits of exercising fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly and that some of demonstrators may have arms in their possession including, from times to times, using hate speeches which may not comply with the principles of peaceful assembly but this, in no way, provides the Thai government any license to use firearms or to kill people, which resulted in the lost of lives and injuries as it has been happening during the past three days.
The decision made and actions taken by the Thai government not only represent a serious mistake but it’s in breach of the commitments and pledges made to international community and the United Nations. It also violates the obligations of the Thai government towards the ICCPR to which Thailand is party since 1996. Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) specifies that even in times of emergency or conflicts, rights to life, to be free from torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments or punishments shall not be derogated.
Any measures of restricting rights shall be taken in the manner that is strictly required by the exigencies of the situation have to be proportionate. The Thai government is obliged to respect its international obligations specified in international law. Measures taken by the Thai government are far beyond the appropriateness and proportionality.
As the Thai Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, I request the following:
The Thai government immediately stops using violent means and the army to dismantle the demonstrators. What has been going on during the last three days proves that using violent means to deal with the demonstrations only resulted in the lost of lives. Thailand is now being condemned by international community. Not only it make the situation goes beyond control but it only worsens the situation which may be extremely difficult to solve.
A number of demands made by the protesters are related to the issues of rights and injustice which is prevalent in the Thai society. The way to address is not to allow violations to occur but to apply the rights-based approach as already committed by the Thai government.
The UDD, on its part, will have to stop using human shields (even if some protesters may do it voluntarily) as a bargaining measure. Over 50 lives lost both among the UDD supporters and officers is already a big lost and this can not continue.
The Thai government is requested to allow the Fact Finding Team composed of regional and/or international members to investigate and constitute the facts and human rights violations both the violence on April 10 and May repression. Any Team appointed by the Thai government shall not enjoy any credibility.
The Thai government should keep in mind that ” if the Government and state officials do not learn how to respect human rights themselves, problems will never end” and that ” the success in ensuring the enjoyment and protection of human rights and freedom is possible only if the Government respects rights of the people”. As Thailand is scheduled to submit its Universal Periodic Review to the United Nations in 2011,it would be difficult and shameful to explain why the Thai government breaches its own commitments and pledges by being human rights violators.
Update: The Thai government has delayed the deadline for protestors (Red Shirts) to leave the protest zone to Wednesday 19 May 2010.