Amnesty International and Lese Majeste
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Amnesty International and Lese Majeste

Giles on February 16:

The Asian Human Rights Commission, The Economist, several other rights groups and dozens of newspaper editorials are all stating that the present round of arrests relating to Thailand’s lese majeste law are politically motivated. Yet Amnesty International, despite their local researcher stating to a UK journalist in a telephone conversation that he considers the recent slew of arrests political, remains silent.

In previous messages to Amnesty International in the UK they have been presented with clear evidence that Amnesty International in Thailand had links to the PAD – an organisation widely considered to be fascistic in intent and action. The present Democrat Party government, who set in motion the recent oppression, would not be in power without PAD and military backing. In fact, several prominent PAD members who took part in the recent Bangkok airport occupations are now government ministers.

BP: Several are ministers? One yes, but several is incorrect (who else aside from Kasit??)

On the links between PAD and AI, that all depends on what one means by links. Did AI have a Director who was sympathetic to PAD and issued a statement glossing over what PAD had done and seen as supportive of them? Yes, but that Director is no longer at AI and AI retracted the statement (BP has heard privately from multiple sources that the statement was unauthorised and this was the main factor in the Director no longer being there). People sympathetic to PAD and even the reds exist in many organisations in Thailand, AI is no exception, but things have changed at AI since that statement was issued.

Of course individuals have the right to form their own opinions, but if they make statements and hold themselves out as speaking for their organisation, people will take it that this is the organisation’s position This affects an organisation’s impartiality. Now, AI have not been that forthcoming publicly about what happened regarding the retraction. Airing AI’s “dirty laundry” would certainly help with transparency, but BP sees it as more preferable that if an organisation such as AI realises mistakes were made that they correct those mistakes. This has happened here and more recent AI statement’s have been more neutral. Giles statement doesn’t reflect the personnel changes at AI and does not provide any evidence about the links between Amnesty and PAD. Such a strong statement by Giles should at least set out the evidence.

Giles continues:

Amnesty International’s only reaction to this has been bland statements, dismissive in tone and empty of any meaningful explanation.

Quite clearly Amnesty International is dragging its heals regarding Thailand. As yet, they’ve offered no reasoning as to why this might be the case.

At the present moment the entire debate around the application of Thailand’s lese majeste law is taking place in public – all arrests are in the public domain and even the names of Thai public figures opposed to the law’s recent applications have been widely distributed.

Yet Amnesty International refuse point blank to issue a single word even acknowledging that the application of lese majeste in Thailand may be an issue. Furthermore Amnesty International refuse to answer any question regarding their links to the PAD.

BP: AI has not been completely silent as the CSM reports:

Amnesty International is concerned over the rise in lèse-majesté cases here, says Benjamin Zawacki, a researcher for the organization. It considers people jailed for peacefully expressing their views as prisoners of conscience and has campaigned for the release of Sulak Sivaraksa, a Thai academic who has twice been prosecuted for the crime and now faces a new allegation.

BP: Dudeist forwards on an e-mail from Amnesty International (UK):

Amnesty International’s most recent piece of research on Thailand is a report on the use of torture by the security services fighting the counter-insurgency in the South (press release summarising the report attached for info). Althought we are monitoring other human rights violations in the country, including violations of the right to freedom of expression because of the lese majeste law (see our last anual report entry on thailand: http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/regions/asia-pacific/thailand ), our main focus is on the war in the South and violations that are occurring because of that.

BP: That statement is rather generic although it should be noted that freedom of expression doesn’t feature in AI’s “Global Themes” although for their recent report on Europe and Central Asia, the section on freedom of expression was more prominent.

On the reasoning on why AI has been silent, fear or putting staff in danger are obvious reasons although CPJ have taken a clear position (see here and here) without any known problems.

Given the recent spate of arrests, AI can’t go on forever without taking a more formal position.

h/t to some readers.