Reports on human rights situation clash

national October 02, 2011 00:00

By Pravit Rojanaphruk
The Nation

5,349 Viewed

Government report on state of several issues like lese majeste differs from those submitted by local NGOs

This is the first of a two-part report comparing different versions of Thailand’s first-ever Universal Periodic Review report on the human-rights situation here, which will be discussed at the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday.

The Thai government’s human rights report to be submitted and discussed at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday differs in many aspects from reports prepared separately by various Thai non-government groups.

Issues that differ significantly include the state of freedom of expression, rights to public assembly, the situation in the three southernmost provinces and more.

Thai human-rights activists will be keeping a close eye on the first-ever Universal Periodic Review (UPR), in which various aspects of human rights in Thailand will be discussed in Geneva on the evening of October 5 Bangkok time.

On the lese majeste law, the Thai government’s report states that “Thailand has striven to find a balance between protecting the monarchy, which is a main pillar of the nation’s identity and security, and the right of individuals to express their views.”

A parallel report by the Civil Society Coalition and People’s Empowerment Foundation notes, however, that the lese majeste law, combined with the Computer Crimes Act, “render Thai citizens unable to critically discuss politics”.

The NGOs report said the Computer Crimes Act “is becoming an indirect way of applying lese majeste-like legal provisions and as a whole is becoming a primary tool in suppressing freedom of expression”.

More than a quarter of a million websites have been blocked by the state, the report stated, “many of which have been deemed as critical of the monarchy”. From 2007 to mid-2010, the report continued, “there have been 31 ‘lese-majeste-content’ cases pursued under the CCA”.

In a separate UPR report, the NGO Civil Society and Human Rights Coalition of Thailand (CHRC) states that: “The lese majeste law has been used as a tool to punish political dissent … Censorship of literature, publications, texts, films, and other media is another worst form of such violations.”

While the government’s report made absolutely no recommendation on the section on what needs to be done on the issue of freedom of expression, the CHRC urges the government “to review and examine the root causes of problems rather than mere censoring” and asked the government to ensure freedom of expression as a “key fundamental freedom in a democratic society”.

The Civil Society Coalition and People’s Empowerment Foundation, on the other hand, recommended the government reform the lese majeste law, “by lessening the maximum sentence of 15 years to levels in line with other constitutional monarchies” and “making prosecution contingent upon consent of the King, Queen, or heir-apparent; and by abolishing the law completely”.

Most view