Thailand: Somchai Neelapaijit, human rights lawyer | Letter

Re: Somchai Neelpaphaijit, human rights lawyer

To: Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister

From: Gail Davidson, Director, LRWC

Date: 2006-01-09

We are aware of the serious situation of insecurity in the south part of Thailand and the various efforts of your government to address the ongoing violence. We are aware of your concerns about reports by international human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which have recently criticized Thai authorities for using excessive lethal force, threats and attacks against human rights defenders, arbitrary detention; torture and ill-treatment, and possible enforced disappearances. We have been aware of the 2004 disappearance of human rights lawyer Mr. Somchai Neelpaphaijit, and we are aware that five police officers were indicted and charged with gang-robbery of Mr. Somchai’s car, watch, pen and mobile phone and “physically forcing another person into submission.” We are aware of concerns by some human rights groups that these charges do not sufficiently reflect the gravity of the crime of disappearance committed against Mr. Somchai. We are looking forward to hearing about the decision of the court in that case.

We wish to assure you of our respect for the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Thailand and the authority and capacity of the Royal Thai Government to enact and implement laws and policies in Thailand. We note that the Kingdom of Thailand is a State Party to several international human rights conventions, and thus has voluntarily committed itself to implement international human rights in Thailand. Since the Royal Government of Thailand has taken on these international obligations, we hope that we may respectfully offer some suggestions which, if implemented, we believe could help to allay serious and persistent international concerns about human rights violations reported in Thailand. We suggest the following:

1. Ensure that human rights defenders are able to conduct their work in safety, and that all attacks against them are promptly and competently investigated by independent authorities, and that those believed to be responsible are brought to justice under charges appropriate to the gravity of the offence. In this regard, we draw your attention to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.

2. Pass legislation so that enforced disappearance will become a specific offence under Thai criminal law in conformity with the UN Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Draft International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

3. Implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) issued in July 2005 regarding Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We notice that the HRC’s Concluding Observations welcomed Thailand’s aspirations to foster the work of civil society organizations, including many human rights organizations. We also noticed that the HRC expressed concern about the number of reported incidents against human rights defenders and community leaders, including intimidation, verbal and physical attacks, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

4. Ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). We note that 141 of the 191 member states of the UN have ratified CAT. Customary international law also absolutely prohibits torture, and thus Thailand is already under an obligation to prevent and halt torture. Thailand’s ratification of the CAT would send a clear and reassuring statement that torture is completely unacceptable in Thailand.

We respectfully welcome your correspondence to tell us your views and plans regarding these matters which are important to many Thai and international organizations concerned with the protection of human rights.