Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’
BANGKOK, May 10 (Xinhua) — Thai foreign minister urged his US counterpart not to downgrade the southeast Asian country in its latest review of the human trafficking situation during his visit to the United States, Thai News Agency reported on Friday.
Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Thailand, said on Thursday upon his return from a visit to Washington that he had discussed several issues with his US counterpart John Kerry during his visit from May 5 to 8.
During the Monday meeting on Monday, Surapong said he highlighted the Thai government’s efforts in dealing with the problem of trafficking. He cited the example of Thailand’s newly- established One-Stop Crisis Centres on assistance and protection for various target groups, including victims of human trafficking.
The minister said he hoped the efforts would be reflected positively in the upcoming U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which is to be published next month.
The TIP report has put Thailand on the Tier 2 Watch List for three consecutive years and the government is concerned that the country may slip into Tier 3 if no meaningful action is taken to deal with the human trafficking problem.
A country in the Tier 2 Watch List is not yet compliant to the maximum standards to combat trafficking in persons and is in danger of falling to Tier 3, which is worse.
Kerry said he would consider Thailand’s request and effort, but expressed concern over Thailand’s lengthy judiciary procedures in tackling human trafficking cases, Surapong said.
The two ministers also discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, as well as global issues of common concern.
On regional issues, Surapong welcomed Washington’s strategic rebalancing policy focusing on re-engagement with Asia, particularly the importance the US has given the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to centrality.
He stressed that American engagement in ASEAN integration efforts can serve as a stabilizing force in the region.
The partnership will help address political-security challenges in the ASEAN region, including transnational crime, human trafficking, piracy, and disaster.
BANGKOK, April 9 (Xinhua) — The next round of the continuing peace dialogue between the Thai authorities and some Muslim insurgent leaders, set for April 29, will possibly be postponed, a high-ranking Thai security official said Tuesday, Thai News Agency reported.
National Security Council (NSC) Secretary General Paradorn Pattanathabut said the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur will be the venue of the talks, but Malaysia’s general election is scheduled for later this month.
“It might be inconvenient to meet on the set date. We are waiting for a confirmation from Malaysian officials,” Thai News Agency quoted Gen Paradorn as saying.
The first round of talk was also held in Kuala Lumpur as the Malaysian authority helped facilitating the meeting.
He stressed that the peace process will carry on despite ongoing violence in Thailand’s deep South but admitted that the escalating unrest has a negative impact on the talks.
He said security forces in the southern border provinces have been placed on high alert in light of increasing attacks by insurgents.
More than 5,000 people have been killed and more than 9,000 hurt in over 11,000 incidents, about 3.5 incidents a day, in Thailand’s Muslim, ethnic-Malay dominated three southern border provinces — Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and four districts of Songkhla — since violence erupted in January 2004, according to Deep South Watch, which monitors the regional violence.
The Foreign Ministry will submit the Thai position to be presented at court hearings on the Preah Vihear dispute to the cabinet on April 2.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said Thursday the ministry will ask for opinions from the cabinet before the Thai team leaves for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearings at the Hague in the Netherlands on April 15-19.
Mr Surapong said approval will be sought regarding a live translation from French to Thai at the oral hearings, which will be broadcast via internet from the court.
The hearings will be conducted in French.
He said a translated broadcast in Thai should be aired so the public can receive information directly from the court. That would avoid any misinterpretation in media reports, he said.
The ministry will also brief the public about Thailand and Cambodia’s positions at the end of each day of the hearing.
Meanwhile, Mr Surapong said Thailand is planning to develop a special economic zone (SEZ) in Poipet and Koh Kong with Cambodia, similar to the SEZ to be developed with Myanmar in Mae Sot. Under the plan, Thailand will develop transport links between the two countries and upgrade border checkpoints, he said.
Cooperation on agriculture, health, human resources and industrial development will also be part of the plan.
Mr Surapong said Thai and Cambodian officials will talk in detail before he meets his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, in May or June to discuss the plan.
Mr Surapong said the Defence Ministry will also hold talks with Cambodian officials on illegal logging of Siamese rosewood along the border and will set up a patrol police unit to stamp out the activity.
Bangkokpost 14-3-2013 by Wassana Nanuam
‘No matter how the World Court’s verdict comes out, we are neighbours and should not fight each other,” Cambodia’s defence minister and deputy premier, Gen Tea Banh said.
“We can [solve problems through] talks. We are supposed to be close friends as both of us are heading for the Asean Economic Community.”
He was urging both countries to stay calm while the Preah Vihear territory dispute unfolds.
However, the Cambodian general dodged a question about his expectations of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) verdict on the ownership of the disputed 4.6 sq km area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple. The ICJ’s ruling is expected later this year.
But the statement contained hints of optimism that Cambodia will win the dispute and will be able to claim ownership of up to 600 rai of the disputed territory.
Of particular concern to Thailand is Cambodia’s attempt to create the impression that it is the rightful owner of the disputed area. A military source mentioned a report which the Cambodian government cites to Unesco, that more ancient artefacts have been discovered around the temple ruins.
The ICJ ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia.
The report is seen as an attempt by Cambodia, which put up a fence and a Unesco sign around the “discovery” location, to expand the temple zone beyond the 20×100 metre plot that the Sarit Thanarat government allocated to Cambodia following the 1962 verdict.
The Thai side is also worried about the so-called “5+5″ meeting point _ about 500m from the temple’s naga stairs. Each country deploys five soldiers (rangers for Thailand) to the spot every day from 8am-4pm. Despite the ongoing land dispute, Cambodia has constructed a border patrol police house for its soldiers next to the meeting point.
So at the end of the day, the Cambodian soldiers remain in the disputed area while the Thai side has to walk back to their base, giving the impression that the area belongs to Cambodia.
These rangers are more like “hostages”. If a conflict arises, the Thai rangers could easily be taken captive, as happened in February 2011 when the two sides clashed.
Moreover, all the signs placed at this meeting point read only in Khmer, despite Thai demands to have Thai-language signs erected on the Thai side of the meeting point. “We are supposed to have put up our signs but we don’t want to spoil the friendly atmosphere over such a trivial matter,” the source said.
Another source said Thailand is dubious about its neighbour. When Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat travelled to the Preah Vihear temple to meet his counterpart Gen Tea Banh on Feb 26, Cambodian Deputy Defence Minister Nieng Pad was said to have wanted to welcome the Thai minister and his entourage at this 5+5 meeting point. The Thai side, however, resisted on the grounds it would give the impression that Thailand acknowledges Cambodian ownership of the overlapping area. Instead, the Thai side asked the Cambodian general to offer his welcome at the temple’s naga stairs over which Cambodia has ownership rights.
“We are keen to see that history will not repeat itself,” the source said, referring to a visit of Prince Damrong to the temple ruins in 1930.
At that time, the French resident general and Cambodian officers came to the site to welcome the Siamese prince who was then interior minister. Cambodia cited this historical incident when petitioning to the ICJ in 1962, saying it was tantamount to Siam’s acknowledgement of its ownership over the temple ruins. And the World Court ruled in Cambodia’s favour. The issue blew up again in 2008 when Cambodia registered the temple as a World Heritage site, triggering conflicts over overlapping land around the temple.
Since the Preah Vihear conflict erupted, Thai-Cambodian relations have ebbed and flowed depending on who is in power on the Thai side.
With Yingluck Shinawatra _ whose brother enjoys cordial relations with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen _ in office, relations have improved. Hun Sen has encouraged Thai and Cambodian soldiers to meet more often. The unprecedented meeting at the Preah Vihear temple between ACM Sukumpol and his counterparts was to give an impression that the bilateral relationship has improved and the ICJ’s eventual ruling will not lead to war.
Cambodia is confident, however, that the Yingluck government will be able to control its army should the ICJ rule that Thailand must give up the territory.
But this is pure speculation. We don’t know what the court will decide and whether the army, not to mention nationalistic groups such as the People’s Alliance for Democracy, will agree to act peacefully if the verdict is not favourable to Thailand.
PHNOM PENH, March 8 (Xinhua) — Cambodian Ministry of Defense has issued a statement to dismiss Thailand’s allegation that the country has planted landmines at border areas, saying that the accusation is”false and groundless”.
“The allegation of Thai army deputy spokesman Winthai Suwaree on Cambodia is groundless and false and it could cause confusion and affect the cooperative efforts of the two governments and armies in maintaining peace along the Cambodian-Thai border,” said the statement of the spokesman of Cambodian Ministry of Defense issued Thursday night.
The dismissal was made after the Bangkok Post online reported that the Thai army on Thursday sent a letter of protest to Cambodia over a landmine explosion that seriously injured three Thai rangers in Thailand’s in Surin province Tuesday. “We believe the landmine was recently planted. It was not a leftover mine,” the Bangkok Post quoted Thai Army Deputy Spokesman Winthai Suwaree as saying Thursday. “This is an automatic procedure for such an incident, to write a protest letter and notify Cambodia.”
An inspection of the area after the explosion revealed another 11 Vietnamese TMN1 landmines, which are commonly used by the Cambodian military, the newspaper said, citing an unnamed Thai army source. “The spokesman of Cambodian Ministry of Defense announces to reject and condemn the Thai army deputy spokesman’s groundless allegation that Cambodia used TMN1 landmines made in Vietnam,” the statement said. “This type of TMN1 landmines has never seen using in Cambodian history. Even in the recorded documents of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, no type of TMN1 landmines is present or used by Cambodia,” it said.
The statement added that the Royal Cambodian Armed Force reasserted that Cambodia is a state party to the Ottawa landmine ban treaty, and the country has not only fully complied with the treaty, but also campaigned against this type of landmines.
The three wounded Thai men were part of a 16-member ranger patrol near Ta Krobey Temple in Dongrek Mountain. The explosion on Tuesday blew off one man’s right foot, and the two others sustained shrapnel wounds.
Bangkokpost, 5 September 2012
A positive development concerning Thailand’s relationship with human rights is the country’s increasing membership of United Nations treaties on the issue.
Several years ago, the country became a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and last month a large inter-sectoral delegation from Thailand appeared before the convention’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to discuss the implementation process.
The recommendations from CERD became public very recently, and they deserve to be disseminated widely to the public.
Like many other countries, Thailand is culturally diverse. Interestingly, the rise of the nation state has led to official classification of different groups under such titles as ”rootless persons”, ”aliens”, ”illegal immigrants”and ”persons with status problems”.
While society is generally seen as tolerant, there has been a tendency on the part of authorities to categorise people into ethnic groups. There is thus an intriguing interface with the international perception of human rights whereby those rights, such as the right to life and humane treatment based on non-discrimination, are inherent in all persons irrespective of such categorisation.
CERD was briefed about the various laws, policies and practices in Thailand. These included the 2007 constitution with its reference to guarantees against discrimination, including in regard to race. It heard about the issues of the hill tribes, the southern problem, migrant workers and displaced persons from neighbouring countries. Yet its recent recommendations are witness to elements of ambivalence in regard to the country’s record, which requires key reforms.
First, the challenge of commitment to international standards. When Thailand became a party to the convention, it made an interpretative declaration that the country does not recognise ”any obligation beyond the confines of its constitution and law”.
It also entered two reservations not to accept two of the convention’s provisions. The first reservation relates to Article 4, which stipulates the obligation to enact laws prohibiting the dissemination of all ideas based on racial superiority and hatred (hate speech). The second reservation relates to Article 22, which confers on the International Court of Justice jurisdiction to deal with disputes concerning CERD.
CERD stated in its recommendations to Thailand that the interpretative declaration is incompatible with the treaty. It also advised that the reservation to Article 4 should be withdrawn. Clearly, the message is that in making treaties Thailand, or any other country, should not make unilateral declarations of an overly broad nature. Moreover, the country needs a specific law to prohibit racial discrimination as well as legal provisions against hate speech.
Second, the issue of classification and categorisation. CERD expressed its concern at Thailand’s categorisation of the groups in society. It recommended the principle of self-identification, namely that various groups should be able to self-identify and current terminologies should be revised to avoid discrimination. This is particularly linked with the diversity of ethnic groups and the possibility of self-identification as indigenous people.
Third, the realisation of civil and political rights. The committee welcomed new laws such as the 2008 birth registration law that now ensures birth registration to all persons born in Thailand irrespective of parentage and origin. However, it urged the country to take effective measures to overcome the obstacles facing the acquisition of citizenship while welcoming the target set by the authorities to grant legal status to about 300,000 persons in a time frame of three years.
Another concern revolved around the implementation of national forestry and environment protection laws that sometimes leads to the displacement of ethnic groups living in forests, including those who have been there for generations. The advice from CERD is that these laws need to be reviewed and that the right of ethnic groups to free and informed consent in decisions concerning them needs to be respected.
Fourth, the situation of women, particularly those in the South. The committee noted that the women of the South often have to face double discrimination (as women and women from the South). It called for ”equal treatment and non-discrimination of Malayu women”.
Fifth, the application of special laws in the southern border provinces. It is generally known that various emergency laws are applied in these provinces, including martial law, the emergency decree and the Internal Security Act as well as the Criminal Code, with many constraints on civil liberties.
CERD raised the issue of racial profiling in the application of these laws as well as violence against suspects such as torture and enforced disappearances. It invited Thailand to review these laws for consistency with international standards and to investigate all allegations of abuses and prosecute those responsible.
Sixth, the presence of migrant workers. CERD called for more protection of migrant workers. A key recommendation is that the country should ”abandon the proposal to return pregnant migrant women to their country of origin to give birth” and to respect the human rights of migrants, including access to health care for documented and undocumented migrant women.
Seventh, action against human trafficking. While Thailand now has a comprehensive law against such trafficking, the committee observed that the country needs to address the root causes of the phenomenon and prosecute traffickers effectively.
Eighth, protection and assistance of asylum-seekers and refugees. The committee was informed by the Thai delegation about various screening procedures under the form of provincial admission boards that help to differentiate between cases needing international protection and other cases.
CERD called for legislation and procedures to protect refugees and asylum-seekers in line with international human rights standards, which offer protection to cases escaping from their country of origin due to persecution and warfare. It added that measures should be taken to prevent any further expulsion of Rohingya (the Muslim group who have had to leave Myanmar in search of protection) seeking asylum and to ensure their access to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. It also advocated accession to the various treaties on refugees and reduction of statelessness.
While the recommendations of international human rights bodies such as CERD are not binding, they are highly persuasive and deserve to be followed up effectively. The added value of the whole process is that it invites transparency and scrutiny through the international lens that provides a more objective analysis than purely national perspectives. Indeed, it is a means to an end, inviting discourse between a multiplicity of stakeholders _ government and non-government _ and comprehensive action for the betterment of all persons in the country, here and elsewhere, irrespective of status, origin and label.
Vitit Muntarbhorn is a professor of law at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. He has helped the UN in a variety of positions, including as expert, consultant and special rapporteur. The views expressed in the article are personal.
Readers will be interested in a brief story at The Nation that reports the sentencing of People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul to jail. As usual, it isn’t that simple, for he has been bailed on appeal.
The Rayong Provincial Court reportedly sentenced Sondhi “to two years in jail for defaming General Mongkol Ampornpisit, former chairman of the TPI Polene rehabilitation committee.” He also received a fine.
The lawsuit, dating from 2007, saw Mongkol claiming that Sondhi had defamed him in a broadcast talk show on 25 May that year. The report doesn’t note that Mongkol is a former close aide to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda and a former supreme commander of the armed forces.
The short report says that the case revolved around Sondhi’s claim that “Mongkol had abused his authority to siphon money from TPI, which later changed its name to IRPC, by paying himself a huge salary as well as giving large fees to an advisory firm.” The Rayong Court decided that Sondhi was guilty and sentenced him to two years in jail, with no suspension of the term. As noted above, Sondhi has been released on bail pending his appeal.
The first point to make is that when advocates of the lese majeste law claim that it is “like the defamation law,” they can’t be believed. Sondhi gets immediate bail. Think of all the lese majeste cases where bail is refused again and again, and where sentences are regularly for 10-20 years.
On the case itself, and Sondhi’s involvement, the story is a longish one and PPT has to admit that we haven’t followed it too much. However, it is worth noting that General Prem’s associate General Mongkol was initially appointed to TPI by the Thaksin Shinawatra government. TPI was a festering sore amongst the companies that had crashed following the beginning of the 1997 economic crisis. The Leophairatana family had refused to restructure the company as its debt mushroomed. As an incomplete Wikipedia page describes it:
When the crisis struck, it emerged that TPI owed US$3.2 billion in external debt to some four hundred creditors. In 1997, the group made exchange losses of … around 5 billion USD. All expansion plans were put on hold, and TPI entered into acrimonious negotiations with its creditors. In an attempt to retain control, Prachai [Leophairatana] put both the holding company and the cement firm, TPI Polene, into the bankruptcy court in 2000. Over the next five years, Prachai used lawsuits, political connections, public advertising, and nationalist posturing in his attempt to retain control. However, with … Thaksin Shinawatra’s term in office, …[and] a bankruptcy court ruling in 2005, the state-owned petroleum corporation PTT, became the major investor in TPI with a 30 percent stake and the family was reduced to a 15 percent minority.
Prachai also mounted media campaigns, painting himself as an injured party. General Mongkol was made head of the plan administrators charged with coming up with a debt restructuring plan for TPI. Prachai was eventually forced out and had to sell his remaining stock.
It is little wonder then, that Prachai became a solid member of the group of Sino-Thai businesspeople who opposed Thaksin and, some suggest, he became major funders to PAD. Readers might also recall that one of the cases that saw the Democrat Party get off charges that originated in the Election Commission, where Prachai and TPI Polene stood accused of an illegal transfer of funds to the Party. TPI Polene is still controlled by Prachai and his relatives (be aware that this is a large PDF, and if downloaded, read from about p. 143) and has continued to fight for it. There’s some more available on the story, indicating Prachai’s politics and his fallout with Thaksin.
Prachai has managed, despite once being Thailand’s largest debtor, kept his fortune, and is ranked 29th richest person in Thailand.
Sondhi appears to have appreciated Prachai’s support, and hence spoke for him and against General Mongkol. It should be added that the relationship between Prem and Sondhi has not been smooth, and this may be related to the Sondhi’s support of Prachai and his attack on General Mongkol. In addition, a major creditor to TPI was reportedly the Bangkok Bank, where Prem has long had connections and mutual support.
Thailand might lose the deep South if the United Nations intervenes to suppress the violence in the region, deputy army chief Daopong Rattanasuban said on Friday.
“We have not lost our land yet, but if we’re complacent and let the UN intervene and hold a referendum, then we’re finished,” Gen Daopong said.
“We won’t let this happen and we’ll fight it to the death, but our Muslim brothers and sisters have to understand us because we’re fighting against a small percentage of people who are using guerrilla warfare tactics.”
The insurgents wanted to get villagers on their side by telling them that the government and Thai Buddhists are evil, discriminating and unjust and that officials are using excessive force, he said.
However, 90 per cent of the two million Thai Muslims were well aware of the situation.
The problem in the South was sensitive because it involves religion. Officials needed to be patient and have a good understanding. Fortunately, Thai Muslims understand and the army is trying to gain their trust, he said.
The southern militants, after failing to mislead the villagers, tried to instill fear by setting off bombs and murdering security officers at random, he said.
“We know of many people who are involved in the insurgency movement, but we have to stick to the law. We cannot work blindly and arrest people without reasonable grounds,” the deputy army chief said.
The army is not planning to impose a curfew that will affect the people’s religious activities. A curfew would likely be applied on certain roads, he said.
“People have to understand that the situation in the three southern border provinces is not normal, like in Bangkok. If stringent measures are implemented we’ll have to explain, but the people have to cooperate as well,” he said.
Gen Daopong said Their Majesties the King and Queen have visited the southern border region every year to meet the people there.
“I believe there’s not a single day when Their Majesties are not following news about the South and the incidents that affect the Thai Buddhists and Muslims there.
“I believe that if the situation eases or becomes peaceful, Their Majesties will be in better health,” the deputy army chief said.