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Bkk Post-There's always room to do
- Subject: Bkk Post-There's always room to do
- From: tinkyi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 10:56:00
Subject: Bkk Post-There's always room to do better
Bangkok Post- June 18, 1999.
There's always room to do better
Amnesty International on Wednesday released its annual report covering
abuses in Thailand for the year 1998. As with all other countries of the
world, the organisation managed to cite some examples.
Although Thailand gave refuge to thousands of refugees from neighbouring
Cambodia and Burma during 1998, thousands more Burmese asylum-seekers were
denied access. Burmese asylum-seekers and refugees also continued to be
arrested for "illegal immigration".
One Karen refugee was beaten to death by security forces. The security
forces ill-treated demonstrators and detainees. Conditions in places of
detention amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Thirteen people
were sentenced to death; one person was executed.
The coalition government of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai remained in power
amid a severe economic downturn, which necessitated a substantial loan from
the International Monetary Fund. Legislation establishing a National Human
Rights Commission, provided for in the 1997 constitution, had been drafted
but not adopted by the end of the year.
Thailand's report to the UN Human Rights Committee on its implementation of
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was due in January,
but the report had not been submitted by the end of the year.
Throughout the year, asylum-seekers from the Karen, Karenni and Shan ethnic
minorities fled Burma into Thailand.
In March and April, the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Organisation, an armed
ethnic minority group allied to the Burmese army, attacked three Karen
refugee camps in Tak province, killing five people and leaving thousands
The Ninth Infantry Division of the First Army continued to prevent thousands
of Karen asylum-seekers from entering Thailand, who remained at risk of
human rights violations in Burma.
Some 3,000 Karen asylum-seekers at Htee Wah Do village in Burma were still
denied permission to cross the border into Thailand after almost two years.
The government permitted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) to establish a permanent presence on the Thai-Burma border to
monitor more than 100,000 refugees on the Thai side. By the end of the year
the government had agreed to five areas of work for UNHCR: to witness the
process of refugee admission; to assist the authorities in registration; to
assist and advise the authorities on camp relocation; and to assist refugees
on their safe return.
Immigration officials and police continued to arrest asylum-seekers and
refugees from Burma and other countries for"illegal immigration". Detained
asylum-seekers were not given an opportunity to challenge the legality of
their detention as required by international standards.
In January, nine Burmese asylum-seekers, all members of groups opposed to
the Rangoon government, were arrested in Sangkhla Buri, Kanchanaburi
province, and detained for two weeks before being taken to the Burma side of
In August, 30 Burmese refugees and asylum-seekers were arrested during a
prolonged peaceful protest in front of the Burmese embassy in the capital
Bangkok, held in the immigration detention centre for two weeks, and
transferred to the Special Detention Centre at Bang Khen Police Academy,
where they were believed to be still detained without trial at the end of
Throughout the year, immigration officials and police arrested and sent to
the border tens of thousands of Burmese migrant workers, some of whom were
asylum-seekers. There continued to be no legal mechanism in Thailand for
Some asylum-seekers were ill-treated.
In January, around 20 Karen refugees, including two women aged over 65, were
reportedly beaten and kicked by soldiers when they returned to Mae La camp,
Tak province, after foraging for food.
In March, Nyan Lin, a Karen refugee, was beaten to death by soldiers because
he returned to his camp after curfew. No investigation was known to have
taken place, although his widow received financial compensation from the
The security forces also ill-treated demonstrators and detainees.
In January, police beat and kicked demonstrators who had given themselves up
during a violent workers' demonstration in Samut Prakan province.
Also in January, three Muslims belonging to the Pattani United Liberation
Organisation (Pulo), an armed ethnic Malay separatist group in southern
Thailand, were reportedly severely beaten while handcuffed and bound by
security forces during 10 days of interrogation after their arrest. They
were still detained and their trial on charges of treason, murder and
possession of weapons was continuing at the end of the year.
The case brought by the families of six suspected drug traffickers shot dead
by police in November 1996 was brought to Suphan Buri court in October and
was still being heard at the end of the year.
Conditions in police lock-ups, immigration detention centres and prisons
amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Prisoners were shackled continuously for months at a time, held in solitary
confinement for extended periods, or held in extremely overcrowded
conditions. Adequate medical care, sanitation, food and water were lacking
in many places of detention.
In the Special Detention Centre, where people convicted of drugs offences
were imprisoned, there was severe overcrowding and routine beatings. In Bang
Kwang prison, prisoners were kept continuously for months in shackles
weighing between seven and 15 kg welded to the ankles. Prisoners in Chon
Buri prison also were kept in heavy shackles for prolonged periods and
In October, Supoj Pengklai, a policeman who had been convicted of murder in
1996, was executed by firing squad. Thirteen people were sentenced to death
for rape, rape and murder, and amphetamine trafficking. At least 52 others
were believed to be under sentence of death at the end of the year.
In January and February, Amnesty International delegates visited Thailand to
research its human rights concerns and hold discussions with government
Throughout the year, Amnesty International appealed to the government not to
forcibly return asylum-seekers to Burma. In November, the organisation
condemned the execution of Supoj Pengklai and urged the authorities not to
carry out any further executions.