On the violence during the breakup of the redshirt occuptions in Bangkok in May, HRW notes that soldiers’ rules of engagement were to use live rounds only in warning shots, for self-protection or when they had clear “visuals of terrorists”. However, “terrorists” was never defined.
“In reality, the military deployed snipers to shoot anyone who breached ‘no-go’ zones between the [redshirts] and army barricades, or who threw projectiles towards soldiers. Sometimes soldiers also shot into crowds of protesters.”
On the shootings at Wat Pathum Wanaram, HRW says that their investigations concluded that despite the temple being a sanctuary agreed by all sides, “soldiers later opened fire on persons sheltering in the temple”, resulting in six deaths.
The report then draws attention to aspects of the April 7 emergency decree and formulation of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES). “Officials [have] effective immunity from prosecution for most acts committed while implementing the decree”. A worrying detail is the sanctioned use of “unofficial places of detention”:
“At this writing the government has failed to provide the exact number and whereabouts of those detained without charge by the CRES.”
The next subject addressed in the report is press freedom. The report mentions the many websites and radio and television stations seemingly shut down for being associated with, or sympathetic to, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
Furthermore HRW says that the 2007 Computer Crimes Act and Article 112 of the Thai criminal code (lèse majesté) were being used by the government “to enforce online censorship and persecute dissidents”. It specifically mentions the case of Prachatai’s Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who currently faces up to 80 years in jail on lèse majesté charges over user comments made on her website.
The report goes on to criticise the Thai government’s handling of investigations into extrajudicial killings during the 2003 “war on drugs” and also mentions the death at the hands of the police in June 2010 of a drugs suspect who was, at the time he was shot, handcuffed and in custody.
On the troubles in the south, HRW had this to say:
“Muslim people and human rights groups also made a growing number of complaints about the unlawful use of force by Thai security personnel, including assassinations of religious teachers and community leaders suspected of involvement in the insurgency. There have been no successful criminal prosecutions in these cases.”
Speaking generally on police behaviour and accountability, Adams added: “Thailand has chronic problems with police and security operations that use abusive tactics. Officers responsible for horrendous misconduct have rarely faced punishment.”
This month HRW also published in-depth studies on two specific human rights issues in Thailand:
“From the Tiger to the Crocodile” examines the plight of the 1.8 to 3 million economic migrants in Thailand, mostly form Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia: escaping the tiger of poverty in their home countries only to encounter the crocodile of abuse and corruption that they fall victim to as disenfranchised and often illegal immigrants.
“Targets of Both Sides” shows how the education system in the south has been caught up in the violence between Malay muslim insurgents and Thai government forces. Seen as symbols of Thai buddhist state oppression, school buildings, teachers and students have been attacked, and muslims have been encouraged to boycott government schools.