Thailand ‘committing reprisals against UN human rights defenders’

For pressing charges against human rights defenders in the Deep South, Thailand has been listed among countries using intimidation against human rights defenders cooperating with the UN, according to a recent UNHRC report. 
 
On 20 September 2017, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHRCR) published a statement expressing concern at increasing reprisals against human rights defenders in 29 countries. A major recent UN report documents cases of human rights violations against human rights defenders working with the UN from June 2016 to May 2017. 
 
The 29 countries named in the report are Algeria, Bahrain, Burundi, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Honduras, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
 
“It is frankly nothing short of abhorrent that, year after year, we are compelled to present cases of intimidation and reprisals carried out against people whose crime – in the eyes of their Governments – was to cooperate with UN institutions and mechanisms,” said UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour, the senior UN official designated by the Secretary General to address the issue.
 
“There are also many cases involving prolonged arbitrary detention, as well as torture and ill-treatment, with some victims threatened, blindfolded and beaten. One case involved forcible psychiatric treatment; others have involved solitary confinement, sexual assault and rape in detention, against both men and women,” Gilmour stated.
 
Gilmour added that the cases documented in the report are limited to reprisals against people cooperating with the UN. Intimidation against other civil society groups challenging state authorities could be far worse.
 
The report urges all states to stop reprisals, investigate existing allegations, provide effective remedies and adopt and implement measures to prevent recurrence.  It says governments which have been challenged on the cases either did not reply or failed to address the concerns in the responses they provided.
 
The Thai case in the report (A/HRC/36/31) is the prosecution of three human rights defenders in the Deep South of Thailand who revealed cases of torture and ill-treatment by Thai military.  
 
Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4 filed complaints in May 2016 against Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF); Somchai Homla-or, Advisor to the CrCF; and Anchana Heemmina, President of the Duay Jai group. 
 
The three human rights defenders were accused of defaming ISOC by publishing a report, released in 2016, on the torture of Muslim Malays in the Deep South between 2014 and 2015. They are grant recipients of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.
 
 
(From left to right) Somchai Homla-or, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, and Anchana Heemmina