An open letter to
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and President of France
19 June 2018
The undersigned civil society organizations and human rights organizations have been informed that you, as leaders of the United Kingdom and the Republic of France, are scheduled to meet and welcome Thailand’s Prime Minister and Head of the National Council for Public and Order (NCPO), Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha on 20 -25 June 2018. Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha as former Commander in Chief staged a coup on 22 May 2014 and imposed himself as the Prime Minister and has since subjected the country to the tight grip of military rule over the past four years.
Even after the 2017 Constitution has come into force, the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) continues to rely on the sweeping and unchecked powers found in Section 44 of the Interim Constitution. Moreover, despite the permanent Constitution guaranteeing rights and freedoms, the Thai state continues to cement its power at the expense of individual rights and freedoms. National security has been invoked in its broadest and most ambiguous meaning to justify arbitrary inference of individual rights and freedoms. Meanwhile, Thai people’s quality of life has decreased rapidly. According to Oxfam’s 2016 report, Thailand’s inequality ranked number three in the world, only preceded by Russia and India. Thailand’s ranking on inequality went from number eleven in 2015 to number three in 2016 as inequality has rapidly worsened. Thailand’s gender disparity also continues to be a problem. Statistics show that a male worker is paid 100 baht (Euro 2.64) compared to a female worker’s pay of 87 baht (Euro2.29) for the same number of working hours. In addition, the number of people in poverty has risen. In 2016, approximately 11.6 million were designated as “poor” or “nearly poor” which amounts to almost one-sixth (16.6%) of the population of Thailand. This number has dramatically increased since 2015 when 10.4 million people were designated as “poor” or “nearly poor.” The number of people living in poverty increased from 15.5% to 16.6% meaning a rise in poverty levels have impacted more than 1 million people.
The international community, particularly the European Union, believes in the Thai junta’s promises of an upcoming election. However, for the Thai people, the pledge the Thai government has made to hold a democratic election seems to be an empty promise. The elections have already been rescheduled several times. The government has enacted legal impediments in the form of electoral laws and political party laws. The military junta has used these laws to delay elections in order to retain its grip on the Thai state.
We, as civil society organizations and human rights organizations, are deeply concerned by the violations of basic human rights and freedoms in Thailand, which have been continuing unabated since the ascension of the NCPO including;
- 1. The decision of the Thai government to resume the use of death penalty against a male prisoner, 26 (name withheld). The prisoner was convicted of aggravated murder and robbery, the offence of which had taken place on July 17, 2012. He was put to death by lethal injection on June 18, 2018. The last execution in Thailand took place in August 2009. If Thailand had not executed this prisoner on June 18, 2018, it would have been declared an abolitionist country by practice for having refrained from executing anybody for ten years in August of 2019. Thailand has missed the chance to be declared an abolitionist country by practice. The abolition of death penalty has been included among many commitments in Thailand’s 3rd National Human Rights Plan with a declared intention to enact a law to eventually repeal capital punishment.
- 2. The arrests of pro-democracy activists and political dissenters have highlighted the empty promises of Gen. Prayut’s government. Similarly, this government has not lived up to its national or international commitments. The arrests and prosecution of the pro-democracy activists have been carried out against people who have simply exercised their right to freedom of expression. The government has arrested these activists as a response to protesters urging that the NCPO to make good on their promise to hold elections. The public assemblies have been carried out in compliance with the constitution and according to the right of both the freedom of expression and the freedom of peaceful and unarmed assembly which are provided for by the Constitution. From January to May 2018, at least 132 individuals have been charged in ten incidences.
- 3. The military dictators have issued orders and announcements to legitimize their exercise of repressive powers concerning public administration relating to politics, the economy and society including policies on land management and distribution of natural resources. In addition, to justify and legalize its actions, the NCPO has issued 208 orders and 128 announcements. The Head of the NCPO has invoked Section 44 of the Interim Constitution to issue more than 188 Head of the NCPO Orders. Such decrees by the military junta shall continue to be enforceable even after the NCPO ceases to exist and even after a new government is formed given that, they are not repealed by the promulgation of statutory laws.
- 4. Unrest in the Southern Border Provinces of Thailand and armed insurgencies have inflicted massive losses on lives and property of local people. This unrest has been ongoing for more than 14 years and has caused more than 7,000 deaths and tens of thousands of injuries. The military-led government has earmarked more than 300 billion baht focusing on the violent suppression of armed insurgents. More than 60,000 armed forces have been deployed in the area causing an enormous increase of arms in a rather densely populated area, which is predominantly inhabited by the Melayu Muslims. Some Melayu Muslims, a religious minority in Thailand, have become suspects in this counter-insurgency campaign. The systematic use of torture, unfair trials, and the implementation of Martial Law by security agencies have made local people lose their faith in the justice process. Many of them have no access to justice process. Appallingly, there are no consequences for military and police officials who abuse their power. There are reports that military and police officials have been using torture tactics against suspects. There are also over 400 cases of possible enforced disappearance and deaths which are likely to have resulted from the unlawful exercise of powers by security officials. More than 250 children and more than 450 women have been victims of shootings and explosions in public places which have become a daily occurrence.
- 5. The Thai military junta has issued orders and announcements concerning the management of natural resources and the environment including land, forests, mines, and water supplies without consulting the public. These laws have been enacted unilaterally without any participation from the public or stakeholders. Such orders and announcements include: the “forest reclamation” policy under NCPO Orders no. 64/2557 and 66/2557; the NCPO Order no. 17/2558 regarding the procurement of land for the Special Economic Zones; the Head of the NCPO Order no. 3/2559 regarding the suspension of the City and Town Planning Law and the Law concerning Building Control in Special Economic Zones; and the Head of the NCPO no. 31/2560 regarding the use of agricultural land per the Agricultural Land Reform Law for the maximum benefits of farmers and other uses. All of these orders have tremendously adversely impacted local people.
- 6. Since 2014, a number of small scale farmers, community leaders and villagers have been criminalized as a result of land and forest disputes. Invoking the NCPO Order no. 64/2557, military, police and administrative officials have combined forces to raid and seize the land utilized by farmers. Previously, operations regarding land would have been carried by forestry officials. It is telling that the state has decided to use military and police officials to seize land from farmers. It is estimated that villagers in 1,253 sites, which includes 8,148 villages, have been forcibly evicted from their land in forest areas. After the implementation of the NCPO order no. 64/2557 in June 2014, there have been 1,003 cases regarding land disputes, including 136 arrests, in the Mae Hong Son region alone. The majority of these cases, averaging around 334 cases a year, are targeting villagers of the Mae Hong Son region who are ethnic groups. Villagers in Huay Nam Hin, Nan province, have been barred from utilizing their land causing them to lose their livelihood. Similarly, 298 villagers have been charged with encroaching on a Forest Reserve. Nationwide, there have been over 500 cases in which farmers who live off their land have been prosecuted for being in possession of illegal wood. In response to this, military and police officials have evicted them from their farmland and their houses and destroyed their crops. Their rights and freedoms have been severely restricted. Many of these villagers have been summoned and detained in military barracks for so-called “attitude adjustments” on natural resources. After the coup, more than 220 women human rights defenders from rural community have been subject to persecution including being criminally charged in order to intimidate and silence them from defending the rights of their community, defending their right to land, and defending their right to freedom of assembly and expression.
1.The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and President of France should publicly announce their clear opposition to the violations of basic human rights and freedoms committed by the Thai military junta.
- 2. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and President of France
should urge the Thai government to repeal its laws, NCPO announcements, orders, and policies which are in breach of Thailand’s international obligations on human rights including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and other international human rights instruments including the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The government should be urged to stop criminalizing groups of individuals which have exercised their freedoms afforded to them by the Constitution to criticize the government or to express their political opinions. The government should drop all charges against pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders.
- 3. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and President of France should urge the Thai government to stop relying on violent suppression and military operations in the Southern Border Provinces in the manner that violates international human rights law and international humanitarian law. An effort should be made to expedite the investigation regarding the gross human rights violations the security forces have been accused of. These violations include torture, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial killing. In addition, the perpetrators must be brought to justice, and remedies must be promptly provided to people who have been affected by the violence and all survivors of human rights violations.
- 4. More pressure should be imposed on the Thai military junta to promptly and transparently hold free and fair elections and to allow the participation and close monitoring of international and national observers. The NCPO should be pressed to bring to a halt any promulgation of laws, policies and any acts that are restrictive to people’s rights and freedoms. The NCPO should also be pressed to end any intimidation and harassment of people, media, political parties and civil society groups that have organized among themselves to express their opinions. These groups are acting within their democratic rights in order to promote human rights in line with the commitments Thailand has made to the United Nations and international community.
- 5. The NCPO should be pressed to drop all charges against villagers in regards to disputes over land management and natural resource management. The NCPO should be strongly encouraged to hold elections and allow local people affected by land policies to have a role in determining and implementing policies concerning the management of natural resources and the environment including land, forest, mine, and water supplies.
Civil society organizations and human rights organizations
Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF)
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
Togetherness for Equality and Action (TEA group)
 According to field information of the Protection International