Start with human rights for prisoners-Prachatai

January 23, 2012

[FACT comments: These are pretty basic reforms posing no danger to so-called ‘national security’ but raising Thailand’s credibility for democracy. Does Thailand want the rule of law or not? So far, both politicians and the military have said they don’t by their actions. It’s time for more than cosmetic change.]

Clean Up the Act Now

Frank G Anderson

Prachatai: January 19, 2012


Given the tremendous negative image and loss of reputation Thailand has engendered over the last five or six years arising from vigorous prosecution of lese majesté cases and cases under the Computer  Crime Act, it seems behooving to the state and government to at least clean up the lese majesté act so as to resemble, in international public opinion and in conformance with international agreements Thailand has already signed, a more civilized process. Right now minimal “adjustments” can easily be made that would at least offer a semblance of demonstrated respect for human decency and human rights, and illustrate Buddhist dharma. The following steps could be taken now.

1. Discard the use of shackles on lese majesté accused and convicted. Shackle and chain use visibly emphasizes what is seen as inhuman treatment and unnecessary restriction of physical movement.

2. Across the board always permit bail, other than when it is clearly demonstrated post-facto that the accused will flee. Restraining accused in remand for weeks while his or her rights would be duly protected through defense preparations on bail is hardly reasonable.

3. Formerly instruct all state officials to cease and desist form interfering in the criminal prosecution process by never counseling the accused to plead guilty or otherwise encourage them to admit guilt.

4. Provide the accused with proper and adequate legal counsel by attorneys, or at least the immediate opportunity to solicit their own, lawyers are not afraid to challenge the lese majesté accusations and the process then currently used to investigate them.

5. Fairly assess the claimed linkage between lese majesté and national security with the objective of reaching a non-military view as to just how the two qualities are related and whether, in fact, deemed defamation or insult really presents any kind of threat to national security. To date the claimed links have been spurious and unsubstantiated other than in vague references to links between the institution and national security.

6. A ruling by relevant state authorities should also be conducted regarding accountability of all state officials involved in lese majesté cases to determine just to what extent, if any, rights have been violated or protected, and whether there is indeed, as claimed, genuine potential of terrorism caused by the intimidating nature of the case and those involved in prosecuting it.

7. Current convictions should be reviewed both in Thailand and by an international agency properly empowered to determine compliance or lack thereof with international standards of justice committed to by the Thai state.

8. Academic and medical professional assessments should be considered to determine to what extent lese majesté cases cause terror individually and socially. While libel terrorism has been recognized abroad, it has only been recognized in principle in Thailand as contained in such wording as, “used by people for political purposes.” In fact, the charge can also be used by the state for the same purpose, and indeed, many social critics have observed the same.

9. Rather than proceeding with more and more secrecy in lese majesté cases, the state should instead increase transparency and openness and be held accountable for lack of compliance during the entire process with domestic and international obligations.

10. Police and other agencies owe the accused minimal protection from intimidation and harassment, in and out of state authority presence. Fundamentalist news media should be cautioned not to disperse hate speech.

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