Written evidence from Amsterdam &
Peroff LLP on behalf of the National United Front for Democracy
Against Dictatorship (UDD)|
1.1 The past several years have witnessed a systematic
assault on the fundamental rights to self-determination and freedom
of expression for the citizens of Thailand. As the elections (currently
scheduled for Summer this year) approach, Thailand faces increasing
levels of political unrest, a situation that is exacerbated by
the deadly violence on the Thai-Cambodian border. The importance
of impartial international scrutiny at the time of this submission
cannot be overstated.
1.2 The campaign started with the 2006 coup,
when Thai generals overthrew the country's democratic constitution
for the purpose of obliterating the ruling political party. This
campaign continued after the country was formally returned to
civilian rule. 215 former party executives were stripped of their
civil and political rights by virtue of their association with
the disbanded Thai Rak Thai and People Power Party. This is in
direct contrast to Article 20 of the Universal Declaration on
Human Rights. The Abhisit administration has, since 2008, persecuted
opponents through repressive legislation and censored virtually
every source of alternative information. The net result has been
to severely curtail the free discussion, debate and criticism
of state institutions that the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights (ICCPR) is meant to protect.
1.3 Of an altogether more serious nature is the
reckless violence and extra-judicial executions that the Abhisit
administration has unleashed against its opponents under the guise
of the Internal Security Act (which remains in force to this day.)
In crushing United National Front For Democracy against Dictatorship
(UDD or "Red Shirts") demonstrators, basic crowd control
principles were ignored and little care was taken to "minimize
the risk of endangering uninvolved persons", as outlined
in the "United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force
and Fire Arms by Law Enforcement Officers." The actions and
tactics of the Royal Thai Army resulted in 91, largely civilian,
casualties, and drew unanimous condemnation by international human
rights organisations. In the wake of the authority's crackdowns,
hundreds of protestors were detained (some in secret locations)
for violating the emergency decree. Multiple reports, including
one from the National Human Rights Commission, a governmental
organisation frequently criticised for its pro-establishment bias,
have emerged attesting to the Royal Thai Army's habitual recourse
to the torture of detainees. Disturbingly, a series of local Red
Shirt activists have turned up dead, in unexplained circumstances.
1.4 While evidence collected by various independent
sources suggests that the Royal Thai Government and Army are responsible
for a series of human rights violations, possible crimes against
humanity, and a systematic campaign of political persecution,
there has been nothing in the steps that the Royal Thai Government
has taken since the dispersal of the Red Shirt rallies last May
(2010) that suggests that a serious, independent inquiry is forthcoming.
Given Thailand's strategic importance and its historically close
relationship with the United Kingdom and NATO, it is hoped that
future FCO reports might do more to highlight the deplorable state
of Thailand's democracy and civil liberties, perhaps to the point
of inclusion as a "Country of Concern."
2.1 This report is submitted on behalf of Thailand's
National United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD,
or "Red Shirts"). As the largest movement for democracy
in the history of Thailand, since 2008 the "Red Shirts"
have repeatedly mobilized tens of thousands of people in large
street demonstrations, some of which were repressed brutally by
the Thai authorities in April 2009 and April-May 2010. In large
part to silence the Red Shirts, moreover, the administration of
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (in office since December 2008)
has systematically had recourse to repressive measures resulting
in the destruction of democracy in Thailand. This report provides
information pertaining to the state of human rights and democracy
in Thailandparticularly in regards to violations of the
Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) committed by the Royal Thai
Government against the UDD-led pro-democracy movement since the
military coup of 19 September 2006.
2.2 While the report on "Human Rights and
Democracy" issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
in 2010 only contains a single reference to the state of democracy
and human rights in Thailand (condemning the censorship of opposition
media), it is hoped that future reports might do more to highlight
the deplorable state in which Thailand's democracy finds itself,
perhaps to the point of inclusion as a "Country of Concern."
Given Thailand's strategic importance and its historically close
relationship with the United Kingdom and NATO, international pressure
by Western nations would go a long way towards promoting the "British
values" that are the subject of the FCO report in a country
where liberal democracy is now in a state of disrepair.
THE FCO REPORT
3.1 For over four years, the people of Thailand
have suffered a systematic and unrelenting assault on their most
fundamental rightthe right to self-determination through
genuine elections based on the will of the people. The assault
against democracy was launched with the execution of a military
coup d'état in 2006. In collaboration with members
of the Privy Council, Thai military generals overthrew the popularly
elected, democratic government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra,
whose Thai Rak Thai party had won three consecutive national elections
in 2001, 2005 and 2006. The restoration of Thailand's ancien
régime entailed first and foremost the annihilation
of Thai Rak Thai, an electoral force that had come to present
a major, historical challenge to the power of old moneyed elites,
military generals, high-ranking civil servants, and royal advisors.
Subsequently, it required that Thailand's conservative establishment
stop at nothing to extirpate the movement for democracy that emerged
as a result. In the process, several of the basic rights sanctioned
in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the ICCPR were
systematically undermined or curtailed.
3.2 The past several years have witnessed a sustained
attack on freedom of association. The campaign started with the
2006 coup, when Thai generals seized the state and overthrew the
country's democratic constitution for the purpose of obliterating
the ruling political party. Based on a retroactive statute introduced
after the coup, a junta-appointed Constitutional Tribunal dissolved
Thai Rak Thai in May 2007. The 111 members of Thai Rak Thai's
executive committee were banned from voting and from seeking elected
office for a period of five years.
3.3 The campaign continued after the country
was formally returned to civilian rule. The 2007 Constitution
imposed by the generals enshrined into law the right of the courts
to intervene in the country's politics by ordering the disbandment
of lawfully registered political parties and by stripping the
executives of such parties (even those who were not found guilty
of any offenses) of their right to hold public office. Section
237 of the 2007 Constitution, written at the junta's insistence,
gave the Constitutional Court the option to dissolve any party
whose executive committee includes at least one politician found
guilty of fraud by the Election Commission of Thailand. Concurrent
with the dissolution of a political party, the Constitutional
Court may also ban the party's entire executive committee
3.4 Freedom House has noted that the elections
held on 23 December 2007the first and to date the only
post-coup general electionswere not "free and fair,"
as "[the junta] maintained tight control over the electoral
process and deliberately maneuvered to influence the outcome."
In spite of overwhelming opposition, the People Power Partythe
successor of the now defunct Thai Rak Thaimanaged to form
a coalition government after winning a plurality of lower house
seats. Less than a year later, however, the PPP-led coalition
collapsed when the Constitutional Court (consisting of judges
hand-picked by the junta) dissolved the PPP as well as two other
governing parties (Chart Thai and Matchima Thippathai).
3.5 While a total of 215 former party executives
were stripped of their right to vote and stand for election as
a result of the court-ordered dissolution of Thai Rak Thai, the
People Power Party, Chart Thai, and Matchima Thippathai, it should
be noted that only a fraction were ever even accused of any wrongdoing.
More than two hundred of them were deprived of their civil and
political rights just by virtue of their association with the
parties in question. In and of themselves, these rules represent
violations of several individual rights sanctioned in the ICCPRthe
right to "take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly
or through freely chosen representatives" (Article 25) and
the right to "to freedom of association with others"
(Article 22)as well as Article 20 of the Universal Declaration
on Human Rights. It matters little that a military junta managed
to write the provisions into the Constitution. These provisions
stand in direct contrast to the treaty obligations Thailand has
freely contracted. The notion of "collective guilt,"
in particular, cannot be the basis for the dissolution of an entire
political party that represents millions of members and in some
instances the electoral choices of more than ten million voters.
Nor should a sitting parliamentarian (or indeed any citizen) be
deprived of his/her political rights based on infractions committed
by others without his/her knowledge.
3.6 After coming to power in December 2008, thanks
to a Constitutional Court decision that gutted the House of Representatives
and effectively overturned the result of the election held a year
earlier, the Abhisit administration has systematically stifled
freedom of expression. It has done so by:
(a) Persecuting opponents through repressive
legislation such as Thailand's draconian lèse-majesté
laws and the Computer Crimes Act, which has resulted in hundreds
of arrests. The year 2009 saw a record number of prosecutions
for crimes of conscience.
(b) Censoring virtually every source of alternative
information, including the opposition's TV station, dozens of
community radios, and as many as 400,000 websites that were blocked
or shut down by the authorities.
3.7 Once again, it makes little difference that
the arrests and the censorship are grounded in laws like the Computer
Crimes Act and Article 112 of the Criminal Code. Those laws themselves
constitute illegal restrictions placed on the Thai people's right
to free expression and their freedom to "seek, receive, and
impart information and ideas of all kinds" (Article 19 of
the ICCPR). While, moreover, government officials have often justified
these restrictions based on the need to protect national security
(something the ICCPR explicitly provides for), there exists no
rational argument in support of the case that a speech containing
statements critical of the monarchy has an effect on public order
and morals worthy of a eighteen-year prison sentence, of the kind
handed down against opposition activist Darunee Charnchoensilpakul.
This, in fact, is precisely the kind of expression that the ICCPR
is meant to protectthe freedom to criticize the institutions
of the state.
3.8 Of an altogether more serious nature is the
campaign of violence and extra-judicial executions that the Abhisit
administration has unleashed against its opponents, chiefly among
them the "Red Shirts" of the United Front for Democracy
against Dictatorship (UDD).
3.9 Beginning in March 2010, massive demonstrations
were staged in Bangkok to protest the destruction of Thailand's
democracy. For the next two months, the Red Shirts remained holed
up behind barricaded encampments built in locations of strategic
and symbolic significance in the heart of Bangkok, demanding new
elections and a dissolution of what they perceived to be the illegal,
military-backed government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
3.10 Faced with demands for its immediate resignations,
the Abhisit administration suspended most of the civil liberties
and political rights the Thai people are formally guaranteed by
the 2007 Constitution. Before the Red Shirts even set foot in
Bangkok, Abhisit imposed the Internal Security Act (which remains
in force to this day, more than a year later). In addition, though
the rallies had been overwhelmingly peaceful up to that point,
by the second week of April the government had resolved to crush
the Red Shirts. In preparation for the crackdown, the government
declared the State of Emergency, which was not lifted until late
3.11 It should be noted that the prolonged enforcement
of the Internal Security Act and the Emergency Decree itself constitute
a violation of the ICCPR. Article 4 does permit the suspension
of certain ICCPR rights, such as the right to demonstrate, but
only in instances where a public emergency "threatens the
life of the nation" and only "to the extent strictly
required by the exigencies of the situation"in any
event, under no circumstances can a State of Emergency be used
to "undermine the rule of law or democratic institutions."
According to the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights
Watch, the International Crisis Group, Amnesty International,
and virtually every other human rights organization around the
world, the Thai government's continued recourse to emergency powers
fails this crucial test.
3.12 The imposition of the Emergency Decree provided
the government with the legal foundation upon which it based the
crackdowns of the Red Shirts on 10 April and 13-19 May 2010. A
total of ninety-one people were killed and around two thousand
injured in the six weeks leading up to the dispersal of the rallies
on 19 May. Hundreds of eyewitness accounts and thousands of video
clips have documented the systematic use of live fire by the security
forces against unarmed civiliansincluding journalists and
emergency medical personnel.
3.13 In crushing the Red Shirts, the Abhisit
administration and Royal Thai Army appear to have ignored crowd
control principles altogether. Contrary to the standards outlined
in the "United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force
and Fire Arms by Law Enforcement Officials," the dispersal
operations made little use of "non-lethal incapacitating
weapons." Little care was taken to "minimize the risk
of endangering uninvolved persons" and to "preserve
human life." The shoot-to-kill policy for demonstrators burning
tires and setting off firecrackers was not undertaken "in
proportion to the seriousness of the offense." Attacks on
medical workers were not ordered in the interest of ensuring that
"assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or
affected persons at the earliest possible moment." Even if
the Red Shirts demonstrations could be regarded as "violent"
and "unlawful"if only because the State of Emergency
declared them to be illegalexpert testimony and the wealth
of eyewitness accounts that emerged from the government's "live
fire zones" strongly suggests that the use of force was not
limited to the "minimum extent necessary." Indeed, the
testimony suggests that many of the victims were murdered solely
as part of a campaign to suppress evidence that might incriminate
the Army and the Thai Government.
3.14 Major international human rights organizations
have offered unanimous condemnation of the 2010 crackdowns. On
May 15, 2010, Human Rights Watch called on the government to revoke
the "live fire zones" and slammed the administration
for failing to abide by the "United Nations Basic Principles
on the Use of Force and Fire Arms by Law Enforcement Officials."
A few days thereafter, Amnesty International called on the government
to "halt the reckless use of lethal force."
Some time after the rallies were dispersed, organizations like
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Crisis Group
(ICG) issued detailed reports that sharply condemned the indiscriminate
killings committed by the Thai armed forces. Reporters Without
Borders denounced the government for giving the Royal Thai Army
a "license to kill" Red Shirt demonstrators, and accused
the Royal Thai Army of "taking advantage of Emergency Decree
to 'run roughshod' over international law and Thai legislation
3.15 In the wake of the crackdown, hundreds of
protesters were mopped up and detained (some in secret locations)
for violating the emergency decree. Most of those arrested by
the authorities were denied their due process rights.
Since the end of the demonstrations, moreover, multiple reports
have emerged attesting to the Royal Thai Government's habitual
recourse to the torture of detaineesboth as a punitive
measure and as an instrument to coerce prisoners into furnishing
confessions. Even the National Human Rights Commission, a governmental
body frequently criticized for its conservative, pro-establishment
bias, has issued a report denouncing that "Red Shirt detainees
are being tortured, forced to confess to crimes and jailed without
any chance to defend themselves."
Disturbingly, a series of local Red Shirt activists have turned
up dead, in mysterious circumstances, in the provinces of Chiang
Mai, Chonburi, Korat, and Pathum Thani.
3.16 The Universal Declaration on Human Rights
as well as the ICCPR guarantee that no one shall be arbitrarily
deprived of his or her life. Such documents also guarantee, among
other things, the right to be free from torture, cruel or degrading
treatment, and arbitrary detention. The ICCPR, moreover, obligates
Thailand to hold a complete and fair investigation conducted by
"independent and impartial bodies" resulting in the
prosecution of those responsible. Recently, the United Nations
General Assembly reiterated the obligation of all states, in suspected
cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, "to
identify and bring to justice those responsible [
] and to
adopt all necessary measures, including legal and judicial measures,
to put an end to impunity and to prevent the further occurrence
of such executions."
Thailand's failure to properly investigate the killings potentially
amounts to a separate violation of the ICCPR.
3.17 While evidence collected by various independent
sources suggests that the Royal Thai Government and the Royal
Thai Army are responsible for a series of human rights violations,
possible crimes against humanity, and a systematic campaign of
political persecution, nothing in the steps that the Royal Thai
Government has taken since the dispersal of the Red Shirt rallies
suggests that a serious, independent inquiry is forthcoming. While
the Abhisit administration has outwardly acknowledged the need
for an investigation into the abuses committed in April and May
2010, the measures it has taken in the months since the carnage
are rather more indicative of a cover-up. The inquiries launched
by the Royal Thai Government are plagued by unjustifiable delay
as well as a complete lack of independence and impartiality. As
initially suspected, it is now apparent that the main objective
of the proceedings is to shield those involved from criminal responsibility.
This is in keeping with previous massacres of pro-democracy demonstrators
perpetrated in 1973, 1976, and 1992, for which no state official
has ever been held accountable.
3.18 In January 2011, Amsterdam & Peroff
formally submitted on behalf of the UDD an Application to investigate
the situation of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Prosecutor of
the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Application establishes
a reasonable basis to believe that the Royal Thai Government is
responsible for the commission of crimes against humanity, including
murder, political persecution, arbitrary imprisonment and other
severe deprivation of physical liberty. Because these offenses
constitute clear violations of the ICCPR and the Universal Declaration
on Human Rights, the evidence presented to the ICC should also
be germane to the activities of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
4.1 Based on the evidence presented in this report,
as well as the vast body of evidence that speaks to the deteriorating
situation in Thailand with regard to human rights and democracy,
it is recommended that future reports issued by the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office on the worldwide state of human rights and
democracy address the omission of the Thai case. Whereas the section
in the FCO report that discusses human rights in specific "countries
of concern" is reserved for countries governed by the most
repressive autocracies responsible for human rights violations
of the worst kind, based on the assessment of several international
organizations Thailand's democracy does not fare much better than
Belarus, Russia, or Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, Thailand's historically
undistinguished human rights record has gone from deficient to
outright disastrous since the 2006 coup. As such, whether or not
Thailand is singled out as a "country of concern," it
no doubt deserves greater scrutiny in subsequent FCO reports.
4.2 More broadly, this report recommends that:
British Government conduct a hearing on democracy in Thailand.
independent international investigation be conducted into the
circumstances surrounding the ninety-one, largely civilian, deaths
and two thousand injured protestors in the six weeks leading up
to the dispersal of the rallies on 19 May 2010.
installation of domestic, regional, and international monitors
and a well-publicised electoral code of conduct to minimise the
risk of violence, third-party intervention and enhancement of
the credibility of the forthcoming elections.
increase of funding for British NGOS operating in Thailand.
28 April 2011
28 Freedom House, "Freedom in the World, 2010
Edition," http://www.freedomhouse.org Back
Marwaan Macan-Markar, "Thailand: Lese Majeste Cases Rise
but Public in the Dark," Inter Press Service, 14 May
Human Rights Watch, "Thailand: Revoke 'Live Fire Zones' in
Bangkok," 15 May 2010.
Amnesty International, "Thai Military Must Halt Reckless
Use of Lethal Force," 18 May 2010.
Reporters Without Borders, "Thailand: Licence to Kill,"
Human Rights Watch, "Thailand: Repeal the Emergency Decree,"
24 November 2010.
See "Panel Claims Red Shirt Inmates Tortured," Bangkok
Post, 7 December 2010.
UN General Assembly Res. 63/182, 16 March 2009, par. 3. Back
The full text of the Application can be downloaded at: