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State of emergency 'would be a breach of people's rights'

The caretaker Yingluck Shinawatra administration should not declare a state of emergency to deal with protesters as it would enable the government to use arbitrary power that would affect citizen's rights, Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW), said yesterday.

"[It] would only make the situation worse because it would allow the government to use power arbitrarily without safeguards against human-rights violations, and when violations happen officials would not be held responsible."

Sunai, speaking at the launch of HRW's Global Report, said the government should learn from the mistake of the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration in 2010, when the Army continued to be "above the law" despite nearly 100 deaths on both sides.

He condemned protesters and red shirts for using "excessive violence" on November 30 in Ramkhamhaeng and said there was no independent inquiry into excessive use of force by the police and protesters on December 26 at the Thai-Japanese Youth Centre.

Sunai also expressed "serious concerns about the erosion of free speech in Thailand" through the continued use of the lese majeste law by both sides of the political divide. He criticised Yingluck for not amending the law, contrary to her expressed concerns about the law before she was elected.

On tolerance to free speech, "both sides have almost zero tolerance to different political opinion," he said, adding that several journalists were attacked by protesters including German photojournalist Nick Nostitz, while the government pressured the media to report favourably about their activities or position.

In the deep South, 90 per cent of victims of violence are now civilians. Sunai criticised the state's "colonialist Thai supremacist discourse" on the deep South. On the other hand, separatists had a policy of no-tolerance for non-Malay Muslims, he said. "So the situation in the South is very grim."

HRW is also concerned about the mistreatment of the Rohingya boat people or refugees who are intercepted and detained by Thai authorities and not allowed to be screened for refugee status.

"Most Rohingya men are detained in a very crowded situation and some of them have died," he said, adding that some Rohingya women were raped repeatedly by traffickers.

Rohingya, Sunai said, had become "a lucrative merchandise for Thai officials".




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