The Asian Human Rights is gravely concerned about the resurgence of military summons of activists and human rights defenders. According to information provided by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 16 activists and human rights defenders (HRDs) in northeastern Thailand have been summoned to report to the local military authorities. The summons to report came after the 16 individuals, representing 12 human rights and civil society organizations in northeastern Thailand, issued a statement (available in Thaihere) on 3 November 2014 that they would not participate in the reform process initiated by the 22 May 2014 coup staged by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The statement questioned the intentions and beneficiaries of the coup, and concluded with an announcement of the position of the signatories that they did not accept the authority of the coup or the structures and administering bodies established by the junta following the coup. At this time, some of those summoned have reported and been released following questioning and being forced to promise to not engage in any additional political activities, and in some cases, publicly recant their position as previously issued in the statement by making a post on Facebook to that effect.
The statement was signed by 12 organizations, including:
Isaan Human Rights and Peace Center
Ecological Studies Group
Project for Publicly-Driven Mineral Resource Policy
Thai Network for Citizen-Owned Mining
Isaan Natural Resource and Environment Network
Center to Protect the Rights and Manage the Resources of Lum Nam Chi Community
Rights for Poor People Action Project (Isaan region)
Isaan Human Rights Defender Network
Baan Peace Group
Community Media Center for a Justice Society
Center for Human Rights Law for Society
The 16 signatories who have been summoned are as follows:
1. Mr. Chakraphong Thonworaphong
2. Mr. Suwit Kulapwong
3. Mr. Lerdsak Khamkhongsak
4. Mr. Sirisak Saduak
5. Mr. Panya Khamlap
6. Mr. Decha Khambaomuang
7. Mr. Nattaphong Rachamee
8. Mr. Natrin Cha-onsri
9. Mr. Paitoon Soisod
10. Mr. Sawang Noikham
11. Mrs. Chonthicha Tangwornmongkhol
12. Mr. Withuwat Thongbu
13. Miss Nattaporn Ajhan
14. Mr. Adisak Tum-on
15. Mr. Nitikorn Khamchu
16. Mr. Yongyut Dongpratha
According to the information reported, the military authorities threatened those who reported with prosecution if they engaged in any further activities critical of the junta and the coup. Those who did not report following the summons have noted that the authorities have then come to their homes to look for them. The use of summons to compel human rights defenders, activists, writers, editors, academics, and other citizens was a feature of the first two months of rule by the NCPO. During this first period, some people were summoned through the public broadcast of orders to report to the junta authorities in Bangkok and outside Bangkok, people targeted were instead summoned informally through phone calls or other notification and ordered to report to the local military authorities. As the Asian Human Rights Commission commented at the time, the use of summons to compel citizens to report themselves to the military authorities is a way of creating terror and coercing compliance (AHRC-STM-100-2014; AHRC-STM-109-2014).
The Asian Human Rights Commission notes that these 16 individuals have been targeted, summoned, and intimidated solely for the purpose of expressing their opinion about the coup. The constriction of freedom of expression is compounded by NCPO's use of executive power to push through environmental megaprojects which has significantly impacted the rights of many, particularly the marginal and impoverished, who then cannot criticize, or even raise questions about the projects without risking harassment or criminalization. This indicates that nearly six months after the coup, to think differently than the NCPO is being treated as a de facto crime.
As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Government of Thailand has a responsibility to protect the rights as prescribed by Article 19 of the ICCPR, which notes that, "1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals."
The demand for the 16 persons who signed the statement in the northeast to report to the authorities and recant their views is a clear violation of Article 19.
The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup in the harshest terms and wishes to express grave concern about the rapid decline of human rights protections it has engendered. The Asian Human Rights Commission calls on the National Council for Peace and Order to immediately cease summoning, arresting, and detaining citizens for expressing their views. To think differently than the junta is not a crime.