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Thailand

    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.

    December 09, 2014

    Thailand’s military authorities must halt the alarming deterioration in respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including ending the unprecedented use of the lèse-majesté law, Amnesty International said ahead of International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

    “We are seeing a spiral into silence in Thailand – ongoing, harsh restrictions that are stifling free speech and suffocating a once vibrant civil society,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

    “Denying the space for debate and jailing peaceful critics through the repressive lèse-majesté  law will do nothing for the ‘national reconciliation’ that the authorities have promised.”

    Official sensitivity to perceived criticism is high. Censorship spans from controls on academic seminars to the media – authorities are regularly calling in editors and in recent weeks have threatened them with prosecution should they infringe restrictions on what they can report.

    October 07, 2014

    Thailand must ensure an independent and thorough investigation into mounting allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by police and respect fair trial rights during their probe into the murder of two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao, Amnesty International said today.

    Following the arrest of two Myanmar nationals for the murders of Hannah Witheridge and Andrew Miller last month, a lawyer on the Myanmar Embassy’s legal team, who met the two, said that one of the men alleged police beat and threatened him with electrocution.  

    Numerous sources have reported further acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of other migrant workers from Myanmar arrested by police in connection with the investigation.

    “The Thai authorities must initiate an independent, effective and transparent investigation into mounting allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by police,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Program director.

    September 19, 2014

    A Thai court’s decision to uphold a 10-year prison sentence given to an editor and social activist for allegedly insulting the royal family continues the relentless erosion of free speech in the country, Amnesty International said.

    The Appeals Court upheld the sentence against Somyot Prueksakasemsuk for publishing two articles about a fictional monarch that allegedly defamed the Thai monarchy. He did not write the articles in question.

    “This is another regressive decision by the Thai courts – Somyot has been imprisoned for nothing other than peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. He should never have been prosecuted and must be released immediately,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    Somyot, who turns 53 tomorrow, has been detained since 30 April 2011, and the authorities have turned down his request for bail and temporary release 15 times. His lawyers and relatives were not notified of this morning’s Appeals Court hearing.

    September 18, 2014

    The conviction of four peaceful protesters by a Thai military court today is an affront to justice and another sign of repression under military rule, Amnesty International said.

    The Bangkok Military Court today sentenced four individuals to three months’ imprisonment and 5,000 Bhat (US$150) fines for violating the ban on public gatherings of more than five people, imposed by the military under Martial Law. As the four pleaded guilty, the jail terms are suspended by two years.

    “This is another attempt by the Thai authorities to silence dissent and make an example of those who voice opposition against military rule. These individuals have done nothing but peacefully express their opinions – they should never have had to face trials, and their convictions and sentences should be quashed immediately,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “The four were convicted for acts that must never constitute offences in a court that must never try civilians.”

    September 10, 2014

    Hundreds of arbitrary detentions, reports of torture and other ill-treatment, sweeping restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and unfair trials in military courts are creating a climate of fear in Thailand, and there are no signs of a let-up, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

    The report, Attitude adjustment –100 days under Martial Law, is the first comprehensive investigation into Thailand’s human rights situation since the military imposed Martial Law on 20 May 2014 and seized power two days later.

    “Three months since the coup, a picture emerges from our investigations of widespread and far-reaching human rights violations perpetrated by the military government that are ongoing,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

    “The Thai authorities should end this disturbing pattern of repression, end human rights violations, respect its international human rights obligations and allow open debate and discussion -  all of which are vital to the country’s future.”

    Arbitrary detentions

    July 03, 2014

    Today’s guilty verdict in the case of a peaceful anti-coup protester in Thailand sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of assembly and contributes to the climate of fear under military rule, Amnesty International said.

    In the first protest-related verdict handed down since the military took power, Pathumwan Municipal Courtin Thailand’s capital Bangkok today convicted Weerayuth Kongkanathan for violating martial law and a ban on gatherings of more than five people. He was sentenced to one month in prison suspended for a year, and ordered to pay a 3,000 Baht fine (USD$93).

    “Weerayuth has done nothing but peacefully exercise his right to demonstrate – he should never have been charged in the first place, and his conviction and sentence should be expunged,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

    June 20, 2014

    There appears to be no end in sight to violations of a range of human rights one month after martial law was declared in Thailand, Amnesty International warned today.

    Since the military declared martial law on 20 May 2014, the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have been harshly restricted and extended powers of detention have resulted in some 511 individuals including political activists being arbitrarily detained, though most were held for a few days.

    “Sacrificing human rights for political expediency is never a price worth paying – Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order must ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are protected. They must stop arbitrary detentions and prosecutions of peaceful critics,” said Richard Bennett, Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

    “It is high time Thailand’s military rolls back the repressive and vaguely worded orders it has put in place, many of which violate Thailand's obligations under international human rights law.”

    June 06, 2014

    The arrest of a high-profile anti-coup protest leader and military court summons of seven peaceful protesters are the latest moves in a systematic and widening crackdown on key human rights by Thailand’s military, Amnesty International said.

    Sombat Boonngamanong, a prominent social activist, was arrested last night in Chonburi. He had publicly refused to observe orders for him to report to the military, and from hiding issued online calls for peaceful protests.

    “Sombat Boonngamanong should be released immediately, unless he is charged with a recognizable criminal offense and remanded by an independent, civilian court. This is the latest in a disturbing wave of arrests of people purely voicing disquiet about the military regime. The army’s course of action is looking increasingly like a purge,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Director.

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