Monday, January 19, 2009

PM promises to protect boat people's basic rights

Rights groups demand disciplinary action

By: Anucha Charoenpo
Published: 19/01/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has assured human rights activists his government has no policy to violate the rights of Rohingya boat people.

Illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Burma eat a meal in this undated picture taken on a Similan island. AFP/ROYAL THAI NAVY

The prime minister yesterday met activists and gave assurances that Thai officials had not abused Muslim migrants from Burma and other countries.

After meeting Mr Abhisit at Government House, Somchai Hom-laor, chairman of the NGO Coalition for the Protection of Human Rights, said the prime minister assured him state agencies did not use force to coerce the migrants, but had treated them in a humane manner.

Mr Somchai quoted the prime minister as saying there was no policy to mistreat boat people and his government operated on humanitarian principles.

Mr Somchai said human rights defenders had called on Mr Abhisit and his government to crack down on human trafficking gangs believed to be behind the migration of the Rohingya Muslims from the Arakan region of Burma to Thailand.
At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban ordered the defence minister to investigate accusations of maltreatment of Burma's Rohingya minority.

Human rights groups have accused the Thai navy of forcing the Rohingya back into the Andaman Sea on a boat with no engine and limited food and water.

Gothom Arya, director of the Mahidol University Research Centre for Peace Building, said both the prime minister and Fourth Army commander Lt-Gen Pichet Visaichorn had confirmed that an investigation must be carried out to find out whether human rights violations had been committed by units under their command.

Mr Gothom quoted Mr Abhisit as saying Thailand had signed the United Nations convention against torture.

He also urged the prime minister to speed up talks on the planned establishment of a regional human rights mechanism at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit set down for Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan late next month.

"As chairman of Asean, Thailand and Mr Abhisit must play a key role in convincing nine other Asean leaders to establish the human rights mechanism for Asean no matter what form it will be, as quickly as possible," Mr Gothom said.

He said the regional human rights mechanism must be independent of the politicians and state authorities of each country and it could be authorised to look into many kinds of human rights violations.

He said establishing such a mechanism would ensure that all Asean member states adhere to international human rights standards.

Angkhana Neelaphaijit, chairwoman of the Working Group for Peace and Justice, said the prime minister pledged to re-investigate the suspicious murders of about 20 human rights activists across the country over the past five years.

"We will closely monitor the government's work [on human rights protection]," Mrs Angkhana said.

Earlier report: By

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Monday assured Thai human rights groups of the government’s intention to clear all cases concerning alleged human rights violations including maltreatment of Rohingya boat people.

Mr Abhisit gave the assurance during his meeting with members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) including Somchai Homla-or, chairman of the Campaign for Human Rights, Angkhana Neelapaichit, a human rights advocate, and Gothom Arya, director of Mahidol University’s peace study centre who called on him at Government House this morning.

Mr Somchai said after the meeting that the NHRC urged the government to be patient and refrain from use of violence in solving problems because social conflict in the past always led to human rights violation, and the prime minister was open to all suggestions.

Concerning the situation in the South, Mr Abhisit is interested in an Amnesty International’s report on systematic torture and beating up of suspects. Moreover, the government wants to limit use of special laws, including the law for administration in emergency situation and martial law, in the three troubled southern border provinces, Mr Somchai said.

According to Mr Somchai, the prime minister vowed to use these laws only as necessary.

Mr Abhisit also promised to push for agencies concerned to look into all human rights violation cases on which little progress has been made during the past four to five years. They include the cases on drug-related killings and assassination of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaichit.

Concerning allegations that the navy had ill-treated Rohingya boat people, Mr Abhit said he has ordered all agencies concerned to investigate, said Mr Somchai. The NHRC urged the government to clarify this case to set a precedence regarding democratic development and human rights promotion to other countries in the region, he added.

Mr Gothom, meanwhile, said he urged the government to clear this matter. On an observation raised by the military that the illegal entry of the Rohingya boat people might be for some clandestine activities that might affect national security, Mr Gothom said no matter what the real motive might be Thai authorities are duty-bound to adhere to the human rights principle and guarantee safety for them.

Since photos of the Rohingyas having their hands and feet tied up are evidence of human rights violation, the government should investigate to see if Thai authorities had overacted, Mr Gothom said. from...


Post a Comment