The U.S. government monitors human rights around the world, produces an annual report on specific countries’ human rights records, and occasionally singles out specific countries for admonishment. Yet the U.S. is routinely silent on human rights in Thailand, even when the Thai press acknowledge that abuses have occurred.
During the Thaksin administration there was the crackdown in 2004 at Takbai in southern Thailand, where unarmed protesters were shot and 87 prisoners died after being stacked into army lorries for transport to an army camp. There was Thaksin’s war on drugs that is generally acknowledged to have resulted in more than 2,000 extrajudicial killings by government authorities. It is not uncommon to hear of torture and death during interrogations of detainees in the south. Detainees and even human rights advocates sometimes disappear while in custody. Under the current emergency decree the government has arrested and detained an undisclosed number of people for undisclosed reasons. What has the U.S. had to say?
The Obama administration recently ordered that sanctions be imposed on government officials who it has determined to be responsible for, or complicit in, serious human rights abuses. This is a step beyond most previous sanctions, as it targets government officials personally. The executive order lists the officials and the basis for sanctions against them. It is significant that most of the officials are not accused of personally carrying out abuses, but only for being responsible for the ministries or units whose personnel committed abuses.
The commander of a military unit whose forces “participated in beatings, murder, and arbitrary arrests and detentions of peaceful protestors.”
A minister with authority over police forces and ministry security agents, whose “forces were responsible for attacks on [university] dormitories … during which students were severely beaten and detained. Detained students were tortured and ill-treated …; other protestors were severely abused ….”
A minister who “authorized confrontations with protesters and their arrests …. As a result, protesters were detained without formal charges brought against them and during this detention detainees were subjected to beatings, solitary confinement, and a denial of due process rights at the hands of intelligence officers …. In addition, political figures were coerced into making false confessions under unbearable interrogations, which included torture, abuse, blackmail, and the threatening of family members.”
A prosecutor who “issued a blanket order used for the detention of hundreds of activists, journalists, and students, and was responsible for sending detainees to [a detention center], where they were tortured and abused, resulting in several deaths.”
A minister whose ministry operates a prison ward whose prisoners have recently “reported forced confessions and interference by the [ministry] in the judicial process; one detainee from the ward was executed after a forced confession and another was executed when torture failed to yield a confession.”
A military official appointed to head police forces “in order to ‘ensure order and security’ ” and “in charge of the government response to protests” at which “media reported 37 dead and hundreds arrested.”
The head of police, whose position made him “responsible for beatings, murder, and arbitrary arrests and detentions against protestors that were committed by the police forces. In addition, several detainees taken to … the detention center where at least three protestors lost their lives after being subject to abuses, have alleged that [the official] … personally participated in the beatings and ill-treatment of detainees.”
A head of intelligence whose forces “participated in beatings, murder, and arbitrary arrests and detentions of peaceful protestors.” (U.S. State Dept. press release 2010/1361, 29 Sept. 2010.)
These sanctions were not imposed against Thai officials. They were imposed against officials of the Iranian government. But which of this list of human rights violations would not apply to events that have been reported in Thailand in just the last few years, and even in the last few months?