THAILAND: The Year 2009: Ten Steps Forward and Ten Steps Backward - Human Rights

The Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), a leading human rights advocacy organization based in Bangkok, has disseminated its evaluation of the human rights situation in Thailand in 2009, through the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

The Year 2009: Ten Steps Forward for Human Rights

1. Action against industrial pollution in Mab Da Phut 

Mab Da Phut is an industrial estate where many people have suffered detrimental health effects from heavy pollution. Legal action was taken by affected persons against the National Environmental Committee, the Minister of Resources and the Environment, the Minister of Industry, the Minister of Power, and other Government Departments. The charges were that polluting industries were authorized without the holding of independent hearings on environmental impact as required by Article 67 of the 2007 Constitution. 

On 2nd October 2009 the Court ruled that 65 of the industries be suspended, while 11 were allowed to continue operation. 

In delivering the judgment the Court upheld the human rights of the people as clearly stated in the Constitution. A counter argument that the necessary adjustment in the existing legal system to take account of the Constitutional changes had not been made, was rejected as invalid. The environmental rights of the community in the case of the 65 industries which were gravely affecting the population took precedence over the economic rights of the industrial projects. 

2. Establishment of an ASEAN intergovernmental commission on human rights 

On 23rd October 2009, during the final meeting of the 15th assembly of ASEAN states, a declaration was made establishing an ASEAN inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights. Each member state nominated a representative to the 10 member Commission. They were appointed for a three year period to achieve understanding and set joint procedures on human rights. The weakness of the Commission lies in its lack of independence from governments and of authority to investigate abuses of rights in the member States. Nevertheless, the establishment of the Commission is considered a beginning in the development of a regional body having a role in fostering human rights. The peoples of ASEAN must pay attention to the working of the Commission. The Thai representative to the Commission is Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree, permanent staff member of the Office of Human Rights Studies and Social Development, of Mahidol University, and well known for her human rights commitment. 

3. Appointment of a Committee to consider the possibility of Thailand’s accession to the Convention on Forced Disappearances. 

Forced disappearances are an all too often employed tactic of rogue forces of law enforcement in Thailand. On 5th August 2009 the Ministry of Justice established a Committee to consider the accession of Thailand to the Convention on Forced Disappearances. The task of the Committee is to understand the scope of activities relating to the serious crime of forced disappearances, whether carried out secretly or under order of government officials. It would also establish the changes required in the legal code to make possible fulfillment of obligations resulting from accession to the Treaty. 

4. Proclamation of Mab Da Phut to be a polluted zone. 

On 3rd March 2009 the Administrative Court gave its response to the legal action taken by 27 persons of the Mab Da Phut community, by proclaiming the area to be a polluted zone. The judgment was based on evidence presented to the Court of environmental damage and the serious ill effects on the health of the community. The proclamation that the area is chemically polluted imposed on the National Committee for the Environment the duty to rectify the problem within 60 days. The Committee decided to appeal the decision, regarding the time prescribed for the problem to be solved. 

5. Announcement of Part 2 of a Human Rights Strategy 

On 20th October 2009, the Cabinet announced Part 2 of a Human Rights Strategy for the period 2009 to 2013 under the following headings:

a. Strategy to protect human rights as a means of establishing true equality, in addition to equality before the law. 

b. The protection of the human rights of every sector to be achieved on the basis of human rights principles. 

c. A strategy to develop the legal system so that human rights would flourish and be protected. 

d. A strategy to develop the totality of organizations for the promotion and protection of human rights up to the level required by international standards. 

All government sectors would draw up a plan of human rights to achieve these objectives at national and local levels.

6. Legal case on drug campaign killings 

The case arose from the deaths of not less than 21 persons in Kalasin Province at the time of the 2004 – 2005 drug suppression campaign under the Government of Thaksin Shinawatra. The deaths were suspected to be due to the action of government officials, who countered that the deaths arose from conflict among drug dealers, or occurred as to result of resistance to police action. 

One of the deceased, Kittisak Thitbunkraung, had been arrested and died in the custody of Kalasin police. In response to a complaint, the case was committed, on 3rd June, to the Special Investigation Department. Following a four year investigation, 6 police officers were summoned to respond to charges. The Special Investigation Department submitted the case to the Prosecutor on 11th August 2009. On 23rd September 2009, the 6 were charged with intentional and premeditated murder, as well as of transporting the corpse to hide the crime. 

This case has special significance in ensuring justice, countering a culture of impunity, and demonstrating to government officials the relevance of human rights. 

7. Provisional authorization of Community Radio 

Although the Constitution of 1997 recognized the right of the people to be owners of community radio, the Government was unwilling to concede the right or to authorize applications for community radio. Allowing access to the media by those with political or economic influence was not the use intended by the Constitution. 

The National Committee for telecommunications issued a declaration on the temporary use and licensing of community radio that came into force on 25th July 2009, to strengthen local communities and to reform the use of community radio at local and national levels. The measure contributed to the study of the government culture of security, and other national benefits, such as people’s participation in managing public communications. The concept of community broadcasting for the public benefit, rather than for profit from advertising, was established. Ownership and independent management by the community were recognized. The people were free to broadcast news and opinion, not in conflict with public morality, and were protected from the unwelcome influence of self-interest political or commercial groups. 

The process of licensing involved three steps. In the first step, documents stating the intention of the applicant were submitted, within 30 days of announcement of the new regulations (i.e. by 23rd August 2009). A temporary license to operate tests for a period of 300 days would follow. Finally, a full operating license for one year would then be granted. By the 24th August 5,500 tests licenses were issued, a number reaching 98 to 99% of community radios countrywide. 

8. Community land titles 

Attempts to obtain community land title deeds as a constitutional right was made in Northern, North-Eastern, Central and Southern regions of Thailand with the aim of extending justice in the right to land. The Government was urged to confirm land ownership in the form of community title deeds. On 9th March 2009, the Prime Minister issued a decree establishing a committee to be presided over by himself to solve the problems of land reform in Thailand. On 24th March a subcommittee to study the path to reform was appointed under the chairmanship of a Minister from the Prime Minister’s Office. 

The subcommittee made a study of legal implications of declared government policy regarding ownership documentation for poor farmers and community ownership for communities living on government owned land that was not forest and who would cooperate in community use of the land. As no legal structure for such practice existed it was necessary to draft new legislation. It is a time consuming process to establish the proper administration and to draw up a government act. It is necessary to formulate a ruling from the Prime Minister’s Office to enact land titles, allowing the concerned parties to begin operation. 

On 20th October 2009 the following principles regarding community land titles were proposed:

a. “Community land titles” were defined as a shared right of the community to use the land for appropriate production which would contribute to food security.

b. A committee was appointed and provided with a budget to regulate the process 

c. The qualifications and status of committee members were specified 

d. The committee would be chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office with the responsibility of coordinating committee activities with government policy and monitoring implementation 

e. Ensuring community participation in the process. 

f. Establishing a community committee to represent the community 

g. The government committee was empowered to withdraw community land titles where abuses occurred 

h. The government committee was to be established within 60 days. Not less than 30 community land holdings were to be established within 120 days

9. Act controlling work carried out in the home 

On 2nd September 2009 parliament discussed a decree dealing with work carried out in the home. A committee to discuss the issue was established which held its first meeting on 9th September. Its task is now almost completed:

a. Work in the home should not be restricted to industry but should extend to farming, administration, government and official business, as well as the work of semi-state agencies. 

b. An important aspect is the supervision and development of home workers, evolving standards for developing working skills, preventing danger, injury, or even fatal accidents. The reimbursement of home workers should not be less than under ordinary conditions for the same quality and quantity of work 

c. Measures must be taken to protect pregnant women, and children under 15 years of age be protected from work involving danger. 

d. Employees would be responsible for paying hospital or funeral expenses resulting from neglect of the use of safety precautions. 

e. A committee responsible for home work shall consist of representatives of the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Public Health, employers, employees, etc. 

f. Local administrators and the labour court shall have a part in overseeing contracts and regulation of the work so that it achieves normal standards.

10. The Courts have obligations in protecting the rights and freedom of the people, as well as guarding democracy: a minority judicial opinion 

Thailand holds a record for the number of military coups, 11 in all since the establishment in 1932 of a democratic system under a constitutional monarchy, and 18 Constitutions. Coups have become a military tradition and usually follow a set pattern; a group of dissatisfied Young Turk officers plot a takeover, approach some senior officers who recognize a god sent opportunity and give their approval. Tanks roll out and usually not a shot is fired as other players in the political poker game throw in their cards. Martial music is broadcast on all the media as a comic opera of military incompetence is played out. Realising their inability to administer the country and surprised by outside criticism of their take over, the military returns control to a compliant civilian administration. The time honoured final act of the Junta is to grant a total amnesty to themselves and to their supporters. By then they will have abrogated the Constitution so that the slate of culpability is wiped clean and the principle forbidding prosecution on retroactive law ensures that the coup makers live happily ever after, enjoying the increased salary and pension rewards voted by the grateful new administration.

But on 28th September 2009 a new leaf blew in the wind. Again following precedent, the coup makers took measures to disable the old politicians disinherited by the coup. In the 19th September coup of 2006, a powerful new tool was discovered to destroy opposition. Cases of corruption and malpractice were lodged against the undesirable politicians, the judgments were a clinical marvel producing the desired result without undesirable side effects. Mr. Yongyuth Tiyapewat, House Speaker of the deposed Peoples’ Party Government was subject to such a manoeuvre. Found guilty of concealing two million baht of assets by the Supreme Court, he was sentenced to two months in jail and fined 4000 baht, negligible punishment on the Thai scale of sanctions. However the required political paralysis was inflicted by a five year suspension of political rights. And being a gentleman’s game, the two month prison sentence was suspended for a year, enough time for even a novice lawyer to find a way out. 

The earth shaking aspect of the whole affair was a single dissenting opinion of one judge, a Mr. Kitti Kanjonrin. This good judge claimed that the Court had to duty to protect the rights and freedoms of the people against anti-democratic exercise of power. He recalled that the seizure of power and abrogation of the Constitution by rebellion and military coup were offences against Article 113 of the Criminal Code and the principle of democratic rule. He had found the Achilles heal of coup makers. The Court must not accept charges made on the basis of such illegitimate power. The ultimate point at issue is whether charges are made on behalf of the people who are the legitimate source of power or on behalf of a group who had wrongly sized power. The case of Mr. Yongyuth Tivapewat derived from such illegitimate power and should be rejected by the Court. 

This single dissenting opinion offers a unique perspective on the coup phenomenon which has caused such vicious damage to Thai political development and democracy in the modern era. Hopefully it sets a precedent and gives matter for thought to future coup plotters.

The Year 2009: 10 Steps Backwards

1. Refusal by House Speaker to accept a draft decree on international treaties presented to parliaments by signatories. 

On 14th March 2009 House Speaker, Chai Chidchop, refused a submission to parliament signed by 10,378 persons relating to the signing of international treaties. The Speaker objected that the draft did not comply with Articles 3 or 5 of the Constitution regarding the right to freedom of the Thai people. The basic principles of government policy were to be followed by the Cabinet in making such laws. 

The action of the Speaker was a curtailment of the right in justice to submit proposals relating to rights and benefits of the people. The submission concerned the right to access details of important government decisions on signing international treaties relating to national, economic, or social security, to important matters of commerce or investment. Such matters certainly come under articles 3 and 5 of the Constitution. 

2. Rights of foreign workers. Case of Mrs. Num Maisaeng, four cases in two courts over three years. 

On 4th January 2006, Mrs. Num Maisaeng, a 37 year old Thai Yai worker, obtained a work permit from the Labour Department. She had been an employee since 2004 in the construction of the Shangrila hotel in Chiang Mai. As the result of a work accident, her left side became paralysed from the waist down, making her a cripple for life. Dismissed from her employment she had recourse to the labour law as follows:

a. Appeal to the labour court. 

In July 2007 Mrs. Num applied for compensation to the Emergency Fund of Chiangmai Social Security Office, which was her right according to the Emergency Fund Act of 1994, but the Office rejected her claim on the basis of Office Circular 711/W751, which deals with the conditions for compensation payments to foreign workers, namely: 

i) Documents of work registration and work permit, as well as passport, and permanent residence permit. 

ii) Contribution of the employer to the emergency fund 

b. Mrs. Num submitted an appeal to the Compensation Committee but her appeal was rejected in a decision given in January 2008. 

c. Mrs. Num then submitted the case to the Labour Court of the 5th Region, claiming that the Office Circular was illegal, contrary to the Constitution, and to human rights Conventions to which Thailand was a signatory. 

On 15th July the Labour Court responded that the Office Circular, being appropriate for the control of foreign labour, was just. Thereupon, Mrs Numappealed to the Supreme Court on 28th August 2008. 

d. On 7th January 2009, Mrs. Num and two other plaintiffs petitioned the Central Labour Office to withdraw the Office Circular. On 21st September 2009, the Region 5 Office issued a statement that the case of the 3 plaintiffs concerning the legality of the Office Circular was under consideration by the Supreme Court. 

e. Complaint to the Administrative Court

In a separate action the two plaintiffs associated with the action on Mrs. Num on 7th January 2009 had submitted a plea to the Administrative Court of Chiangmai on damages also denied them on the basis of the Official Circular. On the 25th April 2008, the Court ruled that the dispute came under the jurisdiction of the Labour Court, and was not subject to the Administrative Court. 

Mrs. Num had been registered as legally employed, both with the Ministry of Interior and with the Ministry of Labour. Presently, 500,000 Burmese workers are employed according to conditions of the Emergency Fund of 1994, with entitlement to compensation payments. However, such payments are blocked by Office Circular 711/W751. 

3. Restriction of Community rights under Article 67.2 of the Constitution 

Article 67 of the Thai Constitution affirms the right of the people to live in a healthy environment by prohibiting activities which could gravely affect the community. The ruling applies to the environment, natural resources and industries which could endanger health or the environment. Three measures are concerned.

i. There should be a study and evaluation of the environmental and health related effects of projects. 

ii. There must be consultation of the viewpoints of communities affected by the projects. 

iii. An independent organization consisting of representatives of environmental and health groups, and of educational institutes engaged in such studies, to advise on whether permission for the projects be granted.

However, the Ordinance Committee in consultation with the labour force committee of the Ministry of Industry insisted that Article 67 of the Constitution was not yet in force, because according to special ruling 3030(1) the details of enforcement must first be defined by law. Thus, the division involved in approving projects or activities was empowered to declare, on its own authority, the acceptability of environmental and health compliance. 

Such an interpretation has immediately affected communities supposedly protected by Article 67 of the Constitution. 

The Administrative Court was of the opinion that the ruling of the Ordinance Committee was in conflict with the Constitutional Court decision that the projects and activities could have had serious health and environmental impact from the date when the Constitution came into effect on 24th August 2007. 

The Administrative Court also pointed out that two members of the Ordinance Committee were board members of PTT, an oil company concerned in industrial activities. Besides, the Ordinance Committee heard the viewpoints of the unit approving projects, as well as of representatives of PTT and of Thai Cement, both concerned companies, but not the communities which would be affected by the projects. 

This opinion is not binding on the Ordinance Committee ruling. The case continues. 

4. Dispersal of a protest against dictatorship on 13 April 2009 

A gathering of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) from 8th April led to violence at the Royal Cliff Resort, Pattaya, on 11th April 2009. The Government was forced to cancel the final meeting of ASEAN leaders and proclaim emergency legislation in Cholburi Province area, dispersing the protest meeting on 14th April. As the State of Emergency was proclaimed on 12th April the situation became violent to the extent that the Government ordered military force to disperse protesters. At various locations from dawn on 13th April to the morning of the 14th, when leaders of UDD called off the protest, 77 people were injured and two were shot dead. 

The events that occurred on this occasion were an important test of freedom to hold a peaceful protest which should not have caused loss of life. If the matter is considered further it appears that the violence which broke out was a failure of the direct responsibility of the government to protect the lives of the people. 

5. Chiangmai Court imprisons for six months, farmers who blocked a public road, without a suspension of the sentence. 

On 23rd July 2009 the Chiangmai Court passed judgement on three persons accused of leading people to close the Chiangrai – Phaan Phahonyothin highway in the Phaan district. The action was in demand of government assistance to compensate the low price of rice paddy. Because of the interruption of traffic, police invoked the Highway Act and the Land Circulation Act. They also invoked an Act relating to the use of sound amplifiers. 

The three were found guilty on all three counts. They were sentenced to one year in jail on the count of blocking traffic, and fined 200 baht for use of amplifiers without authorization. The sentences were halved on account of admission of guilt. The farmers were imprisoned, forthwith. A lighter sentence might have been expected for such a minor offense, or a suspension of the sentence, given the guilty plea and the extenuating circumstances. But, due to the public inconvenience caused by disrespect of law, no mercy was shown. The plea that the action was taken to draw attention to the hardship suffered by farmers due to a drop of price for rice paddy was disregarded. 

6. Obstruction to the right to make peaceful protest by workers of Triumph International (Thailand) Company 

On 27th August 2009, about 800 trade union workers from Triumph International and the Union of Electronic and Mechanical Workers, supported by other workers and members of the public held a protest march in front of Government House. Their march was to ask for a response to a request that had earlier been submitted to the Prime Minister to help their complaint of dismissal without adequate compensation. Having received no response, they came to Parliament on this occasion to petition a representative of the opposition parties. They were blocked by police, who without warning directed acoustic dispersal devices, LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Devices) against them. These devices were developed for control of hostile crowds and have been used against Somali sea pirates attacking shipping and have also been deployed by American forces in the streets of Baghdad. The devices emit disorienting noise up to a level of 155 decibels, a level which can permanently damage hearing in a short time. Even at a distance of 90 metres the devices can cause acute pain; the Thai protesters were sometimes only a few metres away. The manufacturers suggest usage for periods of a few seconds. A recorded video of action against the Triumph protesters shows use for over 30 seconds at a time. The sound induces pain and can cause vomiting. Among the Triumph protesters were elderly women, children, and pregnant women, easy targets for our bold police force! It may be noted that LRAD devices have not been used against the more formidable participants of ‘red’ or ‘yellow’ factions! It is an outrage that this weapon was placed in the hands of a police force under irresponsible leadership, answerable to no legal authority, and used against a peaceful assembly of women and disabled people. 

Three arrests were made on charges of causing disturbance of public order, of the assembly of more than 10 people, of being leaders of a protest, and of ignoring orders to disperse. At present two of the three women arrested are defending their case. 

The protest followed the failure of Triumph to pay adequate severance pay when workers were dismissed. The case of the Triumph workers has been well studied, the detailed work required by the lingerie and swimsuits stitched by hand, and the huge value added component of the workers contribution. Their right to peaceful protest calling for government attention to their plight is guaranteed by the Constitution. 

7. Decision of Inquest Court on the Tak Bai killings, Narathiwat Province 

On 25th October 2004 about a 1000 people gathered outside the Tak Bai police station in Narathiwat Province to demand justice for six persons being investigated for seizing weapons from officials for use by terrorists. The crowd demanded the unconditional release of the six. Negotiations between representative of military, police, government officials, and the people gathered before the station, failed. The Commander of the 4th Region invoked martial law and ordered the use of force to disperse the crowd. (Martial Law had been declared since 5th January 2004) and to transfer persons arrested to Ingkayuth Military Camp in Pattani Province. 

In dispersing the crowd five persons were killed and one died later in hospital; a film of the event showed police firing directly into the crowd. Other persons arrested were thrown into military trucks, trampled on by soldiers, in five or six layers deep and sent to Ingkayuth Camp, a journey which lasted for an inexplicably long time. On arrival it was found that 78 persons had died, others were injured, some seriously. 

When persons in official custody die, by regulation 150 of the procedure of criminal law, it becomes the combined responsibility of the judiciary, the prosecutor, and relatives of the deceased persons to vindicate human rights by uncovering the truth concerning the deaths. In particular, five questions must be answered:

1. Who are the deceased? 

2. Where did the deaths occur? 

3. When did the deaths occur? 

4. What were the causes of the deaths? 

5. Who was responsible for the deaths?

The investigation into the deaths of the Tak Bai 78 continued for four years. 

Case resolution 16/2548 of the Provincial Court of Songkhla Province, issued on 29th May 2009, summarized the findings as follows: 

“The military, the police, and officials who dispersed the gathering, and who transported those arrested to Ingkayuth Camp acted according to their duty according to conditions at the time, dispite the fact that a video recording of the dispersal showed uniformed officer inflicting harm on the people being dispersed. The action shown is believed to have caused the deaths, as well as the injuries to 18 wounded persons. The other 78 persons died during transportation to Ingkayuth and while in official custody. The 78 died on 25th October 2004 at Ingkayuth Camp in Pattani Province. The cause of death was suffocation due to a lack of ventilation while in the custody of officials who were carrying out official duty” 

The names of the dead were listed; the location and date of the deaths were established. The cause was suffocation. But no explanation was given of the cause, or of the behaviour which resulted in the lack of ventilation. 

There was no answer to the final question, “Who was responsible for the deaths”. 

The Court statement does not comply with legal requirements of Article 150 of criminal law procedure on behalf of the human rights of those who died. 

When a delegation of women who were relatives of the deceased traveled to Bangkok to lodge an appeal with the Appeal Court, the Court refused to accept their document. 

The event of Tak Bai, and the failure to answer to questions relating to the deaths, has done more than any other event to enrage the people of the South and to undermine their trust in the Thai legal system and the democratic system it is pledged to defend. 

8. Calculation of losses caused be villagers on the model of global warming. 

Based on findings of the National Parks Division, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, the results of a case considered by the Civil Court, lodged by villagers in Phattalong and Krabi Provinces regarding damages resulting from their intrusion into National Park areas, contests the calculations of the authorities. 

The estimate of losses caused by the intrusion into National Park areas was made using the procedures of calculating damage due to global warning, and lists the following details:

1. Loss due to rise in temperature; 45,453.45 Baht/rai/year 

2. Loss due to water evaporation, caused by increased exposure to sunlight; 52,800 Baht/rai/year 3. Loss due to reduced rainfall; 5,400 Baht/rai/year 

4. Loss due to soil erosion; 1,800 Baht/rai/year 

5. Loss due to depletion of food resources; 4,064.15 Baht/rai/year 

6. Loss due to loss in soil by water absorbtion; 600 Baht/rai/year 

7. Loss due to direct forest destruction: 

a) rainforest; 61.263.36 Baht/rai/year 

b) mixed deciduous forest 42,577.75 Baht/rai/year 

c) other deciduous forest (dipterocarp); 18,634.19 Baht/rai/year

Finally, the Court calculated that 7 villagers in Trang and Phattalung Provinces were liable for a combined payment of 20.306 million baht, 40 others are liable for 1.332 million baht, while 2 persons owe 4.213 million baht. 

Such an estimate of penalties inflicts a huge burden on villagers who have no security in their means of livelihood on account of

1. No research work exists which provides a recognized basis for the calculations made on the various type of loss outlined by the Court. 

2. To make such calculations on the basis of global warming and to attribute the cost to peasants and farmers is unjust. In the context of global warming which is caused largely by the action of the developed countries in the past, the contribution of Thai farmers to the so called glass house effect is of little significance. The Court judgment may only draw attention to Thailand, and implicate the country in responsibility of which it is not guilty. 

3. The losses due to global warming are on a vast scale. It is wrong to focus on the action of peasants who are landless while ignoring the environmental damage due to industrial pollutants. Why have government agencies not turned their attention to industrial polluters, as they have to villagers driven by poverty to encroach on national park reserves?

9. Resumption of Capital Punishment 

On 24th August 2009, the Corrections Department executed two persons, Bundit Jaroenwanit and Jirawat Poompreuk., after a suspension of executions for six years. The executions indicate the government’s failure to respect human rights, of which a respect for human life is the most basic of all. The example of the 139 countries worldwide which have renounced the death penalty bears witness to the conviction that no authority on earth can deprive a human being of life. 

The executions also ignore the proclamation of the United Nations General Assembly on the 8th December 2007 and again in December 2008, calling on all countries to suspend executions as a stage in the total abandonment of the death penalty. While the decree is not legally binding it has immense moral force. (Proclamation 62/149 of UNGA) 

10. Proclamations in 2009 invoking the Internal Security Act 

The Internal Security Act gives the military power to protect, suppress, control, and correct all activities which occur in the region covered by the Proclamation. 

The Act authorizes government units and officials to announce restrictions to the rights of the population, to search and detain persons, to forbid them to leave their homes or to use public thoroughfares, and authorizes the use of force to suppress actions considered to threaten security. Officials enforcing the Act can avail of, when necessary, 14 different laws, such as the Ministry of Defence Act of 2008, the Special Investigation Act of 2004, the Immigration Act o 1979, the Act on use of Sound Amplifiers of 1950, the Computer Crime Act of 2007, and other similar Acts. 

The Internal Security Act was promulgated on 19th February 2008, and has been invoked 5 times by the government of Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva for reasons of events claimed to threaten national security:

1. In Phuket Province and within a radius of 5 km of the surrounding sea area, from 10th to 24th July 2007, during the meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers. 

2. In the Dusit area of Bangkok (which includes Parliament, and the Royal Palace), from 29th August to 1st September at a time when the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), or the “red shirt faction” mounted a large scale protest. 

3. In the Dusit area from 18th to 22nd September on an announcement by the UDD faction of a large scale protest on 19th September before a march on the residence of General Prem Dinsulanan, Chairman of the Privy Council. 

4. In Bangkok, from 28th November to 14th December 2009, as a control on the UDD faction. When the faction cancelled its protest, enforcement of the Internal Security Act was also cancelled. 

5. In four areas of Songkhla Province, from 1st December 2009 to 30th November 2010, to empower Internal Security Divisions to carry out government security policy in the South and strengthen government units and officials in ensuring internal security by enforcing 33 relevant laws.

The Internal Security Law has become an instrument of permanent militarization of this nominally democratic country. Its use, or the threat of its use, brings unaccountable military power, into play for the control of ordinary citizens. Its use is the instrument of a weak government which in times past would very likely have been already overthrown by a military coup. While the dog may seem to wag its tail, in reality, it is the tail which wags the dog. 

Human Rights Watch attributed

Human Rights Watch attributed Songkran violence mainly to the red shirts, this one blames the government.

I don't really mind them calling the government responsible but calling it a "peaceful protest" is simply incredible.

The rest is pretty much spot on and draws attention to issues usually overlooked by mainstream media.

The South is strangely omitted, apart from a ruling on Tak Bai case.

The application of the

The application of the government's double standard as applied to villagers impinging upon Nation Forest lands in Phattalong and Krabi Provinces, step 8 back, on the one hand and to international polluters in Map Ta Phut, trying to reverse steps 1 and 4 forward, on the other could not be more glaring.

In the case of the villagers who damaged the environment by removing forest cover, damage that added no poison to the environment and that will heal itself in several years if nothing is done to prevent it :

...the Court calculated that 7 villagers in Trang and Phattalung Provinces were liable for a combined payment of 20.306 million baht, 40 others are liable for 1.332 million baht, while 2 persons owe 4.213 million baht.

In the case of the Thai government, in league with international polluters, who, by the introduction there of poisonous and carcinogenic substances in concentrations in multiples, sometimes high multiples, of what other countries especially including the home countries of the non-Thai internationals responsible allow, created a "polluted zone" at Map Ta Phut - did damage that will not heal itself without massive and Capital intensive cleanup over many years - not only has there been zero attempt to secure funds for the cleanup of the polluted zone from those responsible for creating it but the government has proceeded as though those causing the deaths and sickness of Thai people and the degradation of the Thai environment were the injured party!

The government is fighting against the court and the Thai people and for the "rights" of the polluters to continue and to expand their "polluted zone"!

One thing that is abundantly clear throughout all of this is that the center of gravity of the people composing the Thai government at the present time is not in Thailand... it is clearly elsewhere.

In the view of the people now in power in Thailand the rights of Thais and Thailand must always take a back seat, must always sit in the back of the bus, when it comes to conflicts with national and international Capital.

Clearly the greatest enemy of Thailand and the Thai people at the present time is the government which sits on top of them both, consuming them for the profit of the Bangkok/International "elite".

I have cut and saved this column. Thanks very much to Prachatai for publishing it and of course to the UCL and AHRC for creating and publishing it in the first instance.

About the lone dissent to the

About the lone dissent to the court-ordered, retroactive gelding of the military's opposition, step forward number 10 :

The earth shaking aspect of the whole affair was a single dissenting opinion of one judge, a Mr. Kitti Kanjonrin. This good judge claimed that the Court had to duty to protect the rights and freedoms of the people against anti-democratic exercise of power. He recalled that the seizure of power and abrogation of the Constitution by rebellion and military coup were offences against Article 113 of the Criminal Code and the principle of democratic rule. He had found the Achilles heal of coup makers. The Court must not accept charges made on the basis of such illegitimate power. The ultimate point at issue is whether charges are made on behalf of the people who are the legitimate source of power or on behalf of a group who had wrongly sized power. The case of Mr. Yongyuth Tivapewat derived from such illegitimate power and should be rejected by the Court.

What has happened to Judge Kitti Kanjonrin? If Prachatai can publish the views of Surapon Nitikraipot, surely they can interview Judge Kitti Kanjonrin.