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Sihasak explains junta's stance at UN meeting in Geneva

Foreign countries continued voicing serious concern about the detention of politicians and activists, as well as the restriction of human rights under martial law after the coup.

Representatives of European Union, Canada and human rights groups raised these concerns and posed questions to the Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow at a meeting with the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday.

Conducting trials of civilians in the military court also posed a problem for human rights in Thailand, as the defendant was not allowed a chance to appeal, they said. The enforcement of the computer crimes law and the Penal Code's Article 112, which is related to lese majeste, would affect human rights practice in Thailand, an Amnesty International representative said.

Sihasak was at the meeting to brief them about the latest developments in Thailand, saying the general situation had improved greatly. He told the meeting that the implementation of the computer crime and lese majeste laws should not be taken out of the context of Thai politics.

"If we can go ahead with the plan for reconciliation, I believe that such problems would be very much reduced," he told the meeting.

As for martial law, Sihasak said only a few legal provisions had been imposed to maintain order in the country. Though many people had been summoned, most of them have already been released, he pointed out, adding that nobody was held for more than a week and those facing trial in the military court were given the right to appoint a lawyer.

There are two distinctly different perceptions of the takeover overseas. While countries in the West and international human-rights organisations have been strongly criticising the junta and raising many concerns, countries in Asia and members of Asean were voicing understanding of the situation.

Regionally understood

Representatives from Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Bangladesh at the meeting said they understood Thailand's political situation and hoped that reform would go smoothly and democracy could be restored as planned.

Sihasak told representatives of the countries voicing concern to visit Thailand so they can see the reality for themselves. He also explained the junta's three-stage roadmap toward reconciliation and democracy, and assured them that Thailand would not retreat from democracy.

He also called on the international community to stand alongside Thailand and provide the cooperation needed to help restore democracy.

"Be with us. Express your concerns when you are concerned. Thailand will not disappear from the [world] map. We are an open society and will remain open," Sihasak told the meeting.

During the meeting, Sihasak also reported on Thailand's implementation of recommendations and voluntary pledges under the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review 2012-2014 (mid-term update), telling the UN what Thailand was doing to improve human-rights practices.


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