Almost three years after the disappearance of Billy, the ethnic minority activist, the lives of the Karen in Kaeng Krachan remain in trouble, facing intimidation, drought and displacement.
Authorities withhold bail from lèse-majesté suspects to force false confessions and promote fear, a renowned law expert has argued. In Thailand, the right to bail has been transformed into a tool of intimidation.
The junta has restarted its restless hunt for Wuthipong Kachathamkun, also known as Ko Tee, an exiled hard-core red-shirt leader. The junta claim he is involved in a plot to assassinate the junta head. But who is he actually? On 18 March, a combined force of police and military searched nine houses and arrested nine people allegedly involved in a plot to assassinate the junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-ocha.
Behind the summary killing of a young ethnic minority rights activist lies a deep-rooted culture of impunity and discrimination against ethnic minorities long stigmatised as drug traffickers.
While the ruling junta is showing its commitment to human rights principle at the UN’s ICCPR review in Geneva, NGO workers said the such superficial commitment is just to avoid further humiliation from international communities. Between 13 and 14 March 2016, Thailand sent 46 delegates to attend the second periodic report on implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
While the junta thinks that Thai Buddhism will be purified by arresting the former abbot of Wat Dhammakaya, experts point out a lack of secularism and political tolerance is a real threat to the dominant religion. On 10 March 2016, Chiang Mai Univeristy’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology hosted a seminar “Dhammakaya Crisis, Social Crisis?” The panel discussed the ongoing harassment of Wat Dhammakaya and tried to propose a proper solution for society.
Over the past three weeks, right-wing media have been demonising Wat Dhammakaya and justifying the junta’s crackdown by linking the sect to the red-shirt movement. An expert points out that the longer the process continues, the harder it will be to find a peaceful end. On 3 March 2016, True Vision, a local cable television provider, blocked the broadcast of an Al Jazeera report on the Thai junta’s harassment of the Dhammakaya sect.
On 23 February 2017, the Supreme Court sentenced Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a labour and democracy activist turned lèse majesté suspect, to six years in prison, ending his six year struggle against the charge. As a man of principle, Somyot was the first lèse majesté suspect in a decade to choose to fight until the end, rather than pleading guilty for a lighter jail term. Prachatai has gathered 14 facts about the man whose legal battle has sparked debate about Thailand’s controversial lèse majesté law.
Two weeks ago, the whip committee of the junta’s National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) temporarily rejected the Protection of Media Rights and Freedom, Ethics and Professional Standards Bill, following strong opposition from the 30 media organisations.
This year, Amnesty International’s Annual Report raises concerns that both the junta and large corporations are exploiting Thailand’s legal system to harass human rights defenders.