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Thailand

    July 25, 2016

    The Thai authorities must immediately drop the criminal investigation against three of the country’s most prominent human rights activists, including the chair of Amnesty International Thailand, who could be charged tomorrow for documenting and publishing a report about torture by Thai security forces, the organization warned.

    Somchai Homla-or, Anchana Heemmina, and Porpen Khongkaconkiet, who was appointed Chair of the Amnesty International Thailand board last month, face the prospect of five years behind bars and a fine of US $4,800 if found guilty on charges of “criminal defamation” and “computer crimes”. The three are due to report to Pattani police station on 26 July.

    “At a time when the Thai government has promised to introduce anti-torture legislation, it is a cruel paradox that they are harassing activists for exposing the abhorrent practice,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    June 20, 2016

    The Thai authorities must reverse their decision to charge three prominent human rights defenders with criminal defamation and computer crimes for documenting and publishing details of human rights violations in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    “Instead of using broad and vague laws to target human rights defenders, the Thai authorities should be following up on the reports of alleged torture and other ill-treatment, with a view to holding those responsible accountable,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.

    The three well-known Thai activists, Somchai Homla-or, Pornpen Khongkhachonkiet, and Anchana Heemmima, have all been summoned to appear at Pattani Police station on 26 July 2016, to face charges of criminal defamation and violating the Computer Crimes Act.

    April 27, 2016

    Thailand’s military government is brazenly seeking to shut down debate ahead of a referendum on a draft constitution, Amnesty International said today.

    At least a dozen Facebook commenters have been detained or charged on 27 April under a draconian new Order issued by the head of the military government. The arrests come after they commented on the controversial draft of a new constitution Thailand’s military government is seeking to impose.

    The Facebook users who were charged under the law now face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 200,000 baht ($5,715).

    “If ordinary people cannot comment on a Facebook post without facing the threat of 10 years behind bars and a hefty fine, what hope is there for any open and honest debate on the military government’s draft constitution?” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Director of Campaigns for South East Asia.

    December 24, 2015

    Authorities in Thailand must ensure an independent, transparent and thorough examination of allegations of torture by police made by two men who today were found guilty of murder, Amnesty International said.

    The Koh Samui Provincial court today found  Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun (both Myanmar nationals) guilty of the murder of the British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in September 2014 and sentenced them to death. The pair’s defence team plans to appeal the judgment.  

    The two Myanmar nationals claimed that during their interrogation police tortured them including by stripping, beating, kicking and threats of electric shocks to extract “confessions”. The presiding judge dismissed the allegations, stating that there was no evidence that torture took place, without providing any further information.

    December 23, 2015
    The Thai Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a guilty verdict against the director of an online news site sets an appalling precedent for freedom of expression - particularly online - in a climate where official contempt for free speech has hit new lows, Amnesty International said.   The Supreme Court today upheld the guilty 2012 verdict by the Court of First Instance against Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of independent news site Prachatai (“Free People”), for not removing comments from the website which authorities characterised as insulting to the monarchy. Since the verdict in 2012, Prachatai has suspended its online forum.   The Supreme Court also upheld Chiranuch Premchaiporn’s punishment of a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 30,000 Baht (USD830) under the Computer Crimes Act in May 2012, reduced to eight months’ imprisonment and a 20,000 Baht (USD550) for cooperation.  
    December 09, 2015

    Thailand must stop using the lèse majesté law to criminalize freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today as the US Ambassador to the country faced a police investigation for alleged defamation of members of the Thai royal family.

    Glyn Davies has been accused of alleged lèse majesté offences over comments he made last month expressing concern at the lengthy jail sentences handed down to those convicted of breaking Thailand’s royal defamation law.

    “The authorities’ vicious application of the lèse majesté law has left dozens of individuals in jail for the peaceful exercise of their rights, with some facing military trials without the right of appeal,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research.

    “The fact that allegations of lèse majesté can be made for raising legitimate concerns highlight the current absurd extremes of Thailand’s restrictions on freedom of expression.”

    December 07, 2015

    The arrest of a group of 37 activists in Thailand ahead of a planned anti-corruption protest is the latest evidence that the country’s military government is using arbitrary powers of detention to silence peaceful activism, Amnesty International said today.

    The group of 36 students and a lawyer were detained on Monday morning while travelling by train to Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin, central Thailand, to attend a demonstration against alleged military corruption.

    The authorities detached their train compartment en-route and forcibly removed some of the activists from the carriage before being taking them into custody.  All the activists were later released.

    “These heavy-handed and completely unjustifiable arrests highlight Thailand’s need to remove the military’s powers of arbitrary detention, which are being used to harass and criminalize peaceful dissent,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and Pacific regional office director.

    December 03, 2015

    Ahead of a regional meeting hosted by Thailand tomorrow, Amnesty International calls on the governments of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand to prioritise protection of the human rights of migrants and refugees in any action directed at combating human trafficking and managing irregular migration. The government of Thailand is hosting the 2nd Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean on 4 December 2015 in Bangkok.

    In May 2015, thousands of people from Myanmar and Bangladesh were subjected to horrific abuses at the hands of boat crews in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Abuses included killings, beatings and being kept in inhuman and degrading conditions. Following the crackdown on trafficking and smuggling by the Thai authorities, crews abandoned the boats and refugees and migrants were left stranded at sea because of governmental inaction and refusal to take in people, before eventually being granted temporary shelter in Indonesia and Malaysia.

    September 01, 2015

    The acquittal of two journalists in Thailand -  on trial for reproducing parts of an article on human trafficking – is a welcome move for freedom of expression, but the two should never have had to stand trial in the first place, Amnesty International said.

    The online news outlet Phuketwan’s editor Alan Morison and reporter Chutima Sidasathian were today found not guilty of for criminal defamation and for violating a provision of the Computer Crime Act. The measure penalizes importing forged or false digital information in a manner likely to cause harm to a third party or the public.

    The charges – brought following a complaint by the Thai Royal Navy - stem from one paragraph copied from a Pulitzer Prize-winning article by Reuters, that examined Thailand's role in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants, published in 2013.

    July 09, 2015

    The Thai authorities must not return 50 ethnic Uighurs to China, where they are at risk of being tortured, forcibly disappeared and executed, and China must reveal the whereabouts of more than 100 already deported, said Amnesty International.

    This morning, the Thai authorities confirmed that they have deported to China some 109 Uighurs – the Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia. They were part of a group detained for irregular entry into Thailand in March 2014.

    Since the 1980s, the Uighurs have been the target of systematic and extensive human rights violations by the Chinese authorities.

    “Thailand has violated international law by forcibly returning some 109 Uighurs to China. This is akin to sentencing them to the worst punishment imaginable. Time and time again we have seen Uighurs returned to China disappearing into a black hole, with some detained, tortured and in some cases, sentenced to death and executed,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director for East Asia at Amnesty International.

    June 04, 2015

    The Thai military government’s last minute shutdown of a panel discussion on human rights is a blatant attempt to silence criticism in violation of Thailand’s international legal obligations, Amnesty International said.

    The event, a report launch by the NGO Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, on human rights violations in the year since the 2014 military coup, was today cancelled by Thai authorities at the last minute. Media reports said that authorities claimed the event was “likely to cause disturbance”.

    “Authorities must stop repressing free speech and peaceful assembly in the name of security. The shutting down of this event is a blatant attempt to silence criticism of the authorities and flies in the face of their obligations to respect freedom of expression,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and Pacific Research Director.

    May 22, 2015

    The arbitrary arrests of students and anti-coup activists in at least three separate incidents today in Thailand’s capital Bangkok and the north-eastern city of Khon Kaen come as a stark reminder of the ongoing intolerance of peaceful dissent a year into military rule, Amnesty International said today.

    “A full year since the Thai military declared martial law and took power, we are seeing how peaceful dissent is still being steamrolled in the streets,” said Richard Bennett, Asia-Pacific Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “Peaceful protesters must not be arbitrarily arrested or detained just because they raise uncomfortable topics or defy military rule. Anyone held merely for peacefully exercising their human right to freedom of expression must be released immediately and unconditionally and all charges dropped.

    “The authorities must respect and even protect peaceful dissent and lift draconian restrictions on expression and assembly in Thailand – in law and practice.”

    April 02, 2015

    Thailand’s announcement that it is lifting martial law and replacing it with new measures is little more than a cynical exercise in the preservation of military power, said Amnesty International today.

    “The announcement that Thailand’s Prime Minister, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, was lifting martial law should have been a cause for celebration. However, he has simply granted himself and his military officers’ extensive powers to continue violating the rights to liberty, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

    “The international community must not be fooled by this cynical exercise in the preservation of military power. Nothing has changed – this is an attempt to cast a veil over its determination to continue using military might to crush dissent.”

    Amnesty International is calling for the new Order to be repealed and for the reinstatement of the rule of law and constitutional protections for human rights which the 2014 coup has so badly undermined.

    March 31, 2015

    The conviction and sentencing this morning of a Thai businessman to 25 years in prison for posting messages allegedly critical of the royal family on Facebook is preposterous and shows the urgent need for Thailand to amend its outdated lèse majesté law, said Amnesty International.

    A Thai military court found Theinsutham Suthijittaseranee, 58, guilty on all five counts of posting messages deemed to be defamatory of Thailand’s royal family between July and November of 2014.

    The sentence comes the same day that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha issued a request to Thailand’s King to allow the lifting of martial law. The interim constitution gives the Prime Minister unchallenged authority to replace martial law with new legislation he claims is necessary for maintaining national security.

    Since martial law came into force in Thailand on 20 May 2014, hundreds of people have been arbitrarily detained and dozens dragged before military courts for peacefully exercising their rights to assembly and expression.

    February 23, 2015

    A guilty verdict in Thailand today against two activists involved in a play deemed to have insulted the monarchy should be overturned immediately, and points to an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression by the military government, Amnesty International said.

    A criminal court in Bangkok today found Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkong guilty of violating Thailand’s lèse-majesté law over their involvement in staging a play about a fictional monarch, “Wolf Bride”, at Thammasat University in October 2013. They were sentenced to two and half years in prison.

    The pair had pleaded guilty to the charges in December 2014. Both have been held in prison for more than six months already, having been denied bail on numerous occasions.

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