Monday, October 3, 2011
Different accounts given to UN about violence in Thailand’s deep South
There are stark differences between a government report on violence in the deep South and reports submitted by non-government groups for the first-ever Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that Thailand will face, at the United Nations' Human Rights Council in Geneva tomorrow.
The review will touch on 15 major issues related to human rights in Thailand over the past four years - a process that occurs once every four years for each and every UN member state.
The Thai government report, while stating that justice is an important issue in the three southernmost provinces, fails to explicitly mention violence committed by soldiers and security officers in the area. The latter have impunity from prosecution for acts that might otherwise be deemed illegal.
But a report submitted separately by the Civil Society Coalition and People's Empowerment Foundation noted that perpetrators in the conflict were both separatists and state officials.
"Root causes of the conflict result from different perspectives held by the government and insurgents," the NGOs' report stated. "Military policy has failed to respect the distinct identity of Malayu-Muslim people from the rest of the Thai population, treating them as terrorists that ought to be controlled by the Thai state."
Problems listed in their report include torture and the use of special laws to limit human rights, including the rights of women and children.
Another report, submitted by the Civil Society and Human Rights Coalition of Thailand (CHRC), noted that "human rights policy was not taken seriously in the deep South while the recommendation from the National Reconciliation Commission [NRC] led by former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun was not well accepted and implemented."
The government's report recommended that further efforts be made to improve the justice process so as to address the problem of impunity and bring justice to all concerned.
"Promoting movement toward ending the use of special laws in the area and to focus on using civilian means to address the problem," was also needed, the government said.
Recommendations by the Civil Society Coalition and People's Empowerment Foundation included adapting laws to prohibit and prevent torture and other ill-treatment, establishing a fact-finding committee made up of people from different sectors that could release a transparent report to the public and release all suspects not able to be prosecuted because of insufficient evidence against them. They also called for compensation for suspects who had been wrongly detained.
Some human rights activists plan to watch the live Internet-broadcast of the rights debate on Thailand from Geneva. It starts at 7pm (Bangkok time) at The Reading room, a private library and meeting place in Silom, and will be open to the public. Pravit Rojanaphruk