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05BANGKOK1454 NGO HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ASIA HIGHLIGHTS NEGATIVE TREND

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“27766”,”2/28/2005 12:29″,”05BANGKOK1454″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“04BANGKOK5360|05BANGKOK1280|05BANGKOK1375”,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 001454

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL; HQ USPACOM FOR FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/28/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, HUMAN RIGHTS

SUBJECT: THAILAND: NGO HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ASIA HIGHLIGHTS

NEGATIVE TREND

 

REF: A) BANGKOK 1280 B) 04 BANGKOK 5360 C) BANGKOK 1375

 

Classified By: Classified by Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke, Reas

on: 1.4 (d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: At a hard hitting press conference on

February 24, Brad Adams, executive director of the

non-government organization Human Rights Watch Asia

(HRW-Asia), described the trend for human rights in Thailand

as \”unambiguously negative.\” Poloff attended the press

conference, as did the international and Thai media, many of

which reported prominently on his comments. Adams urged the

Royal Thai Government (RTG) to rebuild trust by revealing the

classified contents of official investigations into the Krue

Se and Tak Bai incidents in the deep South, events in 2004

where evidence is strong of human rights abuses by security

forces against Thai Muslims. He also called for the RTG to

bring to justice those responsible for the death of Somchai

Neelapaijit, a noted Muslim human rights lawyer whom he

described as a \”folk hero\” in the South. Adams separately

told the Ambassador that the President of the Privy Council

has initiated a discreet dialogue with prominent academics

critical of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra\’s approach to

the South. PM Thaksin responded sharply to criticism by the

Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) of on-going

violence in the South. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (U) On February 24, 2005, Brad Adams, executive director

of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), gave a

press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of

Thailand (FCCT). Adams pulled no punches and summarized the

trend in human rights in Thailand as \”clearly and

unambiguously negative.\” He noted this as a particular

disappointment after the optimism generated following

Thailand\’s adoption of the 1997 Constitution, which contained

many provisions for improved civil and democratic rights for

the Thai people. He said the first four-year Thaksin

administration had seen a gradual erosion of democratic gains

from the previous Chuan Leekpai administration. Adams,

commenting negatively on a recently announced security zoning

plan for the three Muslim majority provinces in Thailand\’s

deep South (Ref A), stated that PM Thaksin needs to move from

\”CEO mode to listening mode.\”

 

NEVER FORGET: FOUR AREAS THE RTG COULD ADDRESS TO BUILD TRUST

 

3. (U) Adams outlined four issues that he said, if addressed

squarely by the RTG, might lower tensions in Southern

Thailand. First, he urged public release of the complete

report form the Independent Commission (IC) that investigated

the attack on Krue Se Mosque on April 28, 2004 in which 32

separatist militants were killed. Adams said that, while it

is no mystery who was in command and what happened on the

ground that day, the question is open whether those

responsible be held criminally responsible for their actions.

(Note: Although not mentioned by name, Adams was referring

to General Phanlop Pinmani, Deputy Directory of the Internal

Security Operations Command (ISOC) (Ref B) End Note.)

 

TAK BAI SHOOTINGS

 

4. (U) Second, Adams recommended as a confidence building

measure release of the entire report of another Independent

Commission that investigated the October 28, 2004 incident at

Tak Bai, Narathiwat. While Adams deemed the work of this

commission as \”a reasonably good job\”, he said that the

callous treatment of prisoners (80 of whom died by

suffocation while being transported) and the blatant firing

by security forces into the crowd, resulting in 6 known

deaths, must be addressed. He stated that the IC\’s

description of the use of force at Tak Bai as \”reasonable\”

cannot be accepted under UN or even Thai criminal procedures

for the use of force if one views the video of the

demonstrations, widely available in Thailand.

 

2003 DRUG WAR REPORTED EJKs

 

5. (U) Third, Adams warned that the issue of extra-judicial

killings (EJKs) in the 2003 war on drugs must not be allowed

to slip from the public conscience and debate on human

rights. He recalled that many international observers, when

first hearing estimates as high as 3,000 deaths during the

height of the anti-narcotics campaign, felt a sense of

cognitive dissonance–how could such a peaceful and

relatively developed country as Thailand have such a high

death toll? Adams noted that what is more alarming is the

absence of any real official investigation. He emphasized

that this permissive environment cannot be allowed to

continue. (Note: Embassy estimates of drug-related EJK

killings in the 2003 drug war are approximately 1,300. The

RTG claims to have the files open for investigating these

cases, but there is no evidence of follow up. End note.)

Adams said that, while many pointed out that PM Thaksin\’s

re-election was in part a vote of confidence in his ability

to deal with the drug problem and the popularity of the war

on drugs, there were no excuses for the government to ignore

the rule of law in order to expeditiously solve the drug

problem.

 

SOMCHAI: JUSTICE FOR A SOUTHERN FOLK HERO

 

6. (U) Lastly, Adams stated that Somchai Neelapaijit, the

missing Muslim lawyer and human rights activist (now presumed

dead), has become \”something of a folk hero\” in southern

Thailand. If the RTG wants to build trust in the southern

people, particularly southern Muslims, it must be able to

reveal the identity of and charge those responsible for his

kidnapping and death, he said. Five policemen are currently

charged with robbery and kidnapping and are free while

awaiting trial (scheduled for August 2005). Adams claimed

that clearly the RTG knows who killed Somchai, and they must

reveal this and bring them to justice.

 

7. (C) On the margins of the press conference, HRW staffers

told Poloff of their plans to issue a more revealing report

about the situation in southern Thailand in late March or

early April 2005. They estimated that \”hundreds\” are being

held as suspects in violence against civilians and government

officials, and that many are subject to mistreatment they

characterized as \”torture\”. Asked if HRW had names of people

who may have been \”disappeared\”, the HRW staff expressed

frustration over the difficulties of persuading victims of

abuses and their relatives to talk at that level of detail.

Adams publicly reiterated a similar feeling during the press

conference, describing a sense in affected communities that

\”If they can just be quiet, then this will pass.\” Adams

opined that RTG security plans for the south that rely on

more military deployments and higher profile government

presence are not allowing the situation to pass and would not

work. Reflecting further on the general silence of Muslim

villagers, Adams noted, \”I wonder if the government realizes

what\’s being offered to them\” (i.e., as an low-cost

opportunity for an end to violence).

 

PRESIDENT OF PRIVY COUNCIL REACHES OUT DISCREETLY TO THAKSIN

CRITICS

 

8. (C) In a separate meeting with the Ambassador on February

23, XXXXX reported that some academics and human rights

activists had been approached by General Prem Tinsulanond,

former prime minister and current President of the Privy

Council, to engage in dialogue and consultations on southern

Thailand. Embassy Poloff confirmed that XXXXXXX

XXXXX, political science professor at XXXXXXX

University, had been approached by Prem to discuss issues in

the south confidentially, along with other members of the

Peace and Reconciliation Network. (Comment: This

development, as well as public statements by other members of

the Privy Council last week, (Ref C), are unusual for members

of this secretive royal council. End Comment.)

 

THAI REACTION TO OIC STATEMENT CRITICAL OF VIOLENCE IN DEEP

SOUTH

 

9. (U) During his weekly radio address on Saturday, February

26, Thaksin had tough remarks seemingly directed at foreign

critics of his policies. In an apparent reference to

HRW-Asia\’s Adams press conference and to concerns raised by

the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) following a

meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister Abdulla Badawi and

OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Thaksin said, \”I

didn\’t ask them for rice to eat\” and \”these people are more

sympathetic towards the insurgents than the innocent

victims.\” The OIC Secretary General had issued a press

statement on February 21 expressing \”serious dissatisfaction

at the persisting bloody acts of violence perpetrated against

Muslims in Southern Thailand.\” Thai Foreign Minister

Surakiart Sathirathai separately replied to the OIC statement

that Thailand would never use force to resolve problems in

the South. He was quoted as saying that the RTG would send a

copy of the Tak Bai IC report to the OIC.

 

10. (C) COMMENT: A team chosen by PM Thaksin has a chance to

test some of the recommendations of critics of the RTG

security approach to the deep South. On February 28, 25

members of parliament (MP) from the Thai Rak Thai (TRT)

party, led by Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptaphanlop, will

make a one-day fact-finding trip to Pattani, Yala and

Narathiwat provinces. According to press reports, they will

divide into three separate groups and meet with villagers

without the participation of local government and security

officials. This trip is part of a three-month \”survey\” of

Southern Muslim sentiments that is supposed to influence RTG

policies. It remains to be seen whether these MPs will take

Adams\’ advice and really shift to listening mode. They would

do a great service to Thailand if they return to the PM with

an honest assessment of villagers\’ concerns and persuade him

to open a meaningful dialogue with Muslims in the South, most

of whom are deeply angry over recent events stemming from

Thaksin\’s policies, but probably not yet radicalized. END

COMMENT.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 6, 2011 at 7:39 am

Posted in Confidential, NGO, Thaksin

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