Rights Groups: Thailand Suppresses Freedom

03 September, 2014

Thailand's military and police have stopped the release of an independent report on human rights. The report examines human rights in Thailand during the first 100 days under military rule.

A discussion on the subject was cancelled. Organizers feared they would be arrested if they failed to obey a request from military leaders not to hold the event.

The meeting was to be held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand in the Thai capital, Bangkok. But a policeman went to the meeting place and spoke with representatives from three groups: Amnesty International, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and the Cross Cultural Foundation. The policeman said he has a personal copy of the request for each of them. He said the order came from the National Council for Peace and Order.

Thailand is currently under martial law. Martial law is control of an area by the military, not the police. Martial law was declared in Thailand on May 20 and is still in effect. There are restrictions on any meetings thought to be political. Freedom of the press has been restricted. So are activities that may be critical of the junta, or military leaders.

Rights Groups: Thailand Suppresses Freedom
Police officers go inside the Foreign Correspondents Club to deliver letters to human rights panelists, Bangkok, Sept. 2, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)

General Prayuth Chan-ocha is the army chief who ousted Thailand's civilian government. He says the junta will work on security throughout the country. He says martial law needs to remain in effect to guarantee order. General Prayuth has chosen the members of Thailand's new legislature. The legislature recently approved the general as the country's official leader or prime minister. Twelve members of his cabinet are active or retired officers of the security forces.

Pawinee Chumsri is with the organization Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. She says it was wise to honor the request to stop the human rights discussion.

She says the groups call canceling the event a violation of their freedom of expression. She adds that citizens should have the right to receive information about human rights in Thailand. She promised the report on human rights would be released in the near future.

Some international rights organizations have condemned the detention of politicians, activists and journalists by the Thai military. Most of those held have been released with warnings after a week or less. However, some of those detained face criminal charges.

The junta says it wants to return happiness to the Thai people. General Prayuth says he promises to have general elections before the end of 2015.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

This story is based on a report by Steve Herman in Bangkok, adapted by Jonathan Evans and edited by George Grow.