Re: Wasant Panich – Lawyer and human rights defender
To: H.E. Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister
From: C.A. Morris, LRWC Thailand Country Monitor
We are alarmed about a report that a National Human Rights Commissioner, Wasant Panich, experienced a possible attempt to abduct him on 28 June 2006. He is believed to remain in danger. We understand that in late June, 2006, he received several anonymous telephone calls and that he was followed while driving in his car and subsequently while he was in at least two taxis. It has been suggested that these incidents may have been intended to intimidate Mr. Wasant Panich regarding his human rights work. We understand he has been calling for an exhumation and investigation into the deaths of hundreds of people found in mass graves discovered earlier in 2006 in southern Thailand. It has been suggested that these deaths may be linked to the current serious conflict in south Thailand.
We are becoming gravely concerned about the persistent reports of insecurity of human rights defenders in Thailand as well as suggestions of impunity for those who threaten or attack them.
For example, we remain concerned about the slow progress of the investigation into the 2004 disappearance of human rights lawyer Mr. Somchai Neelpaphaijit. We are aware of other concerns about lack of effective investigation of killings, including the stabbing death of Phra Supoj Suwagano in June 2005 after reporting illegal logging near his monastery in northern Thailand; the shooting death of Charoen Wataksorn, an environmental campaigner, in June 2004 after reporting illegal land transfers to the authorities.
We respectfully draw your attention to the international obligations of the Kingdom of Thailand under several human rights conventions, including the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. We also draw your attention to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998. We note the July 2005 concerns about Thailand issued by the UN Human Rights Committee about reports of intimidation, verbal and physical attacks, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders and community leaders.
In the light of these human rights instruments and concerns, we urge you to take urgent steps as follows:
1. Ensure that all human rights defenders, including members of Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission, are able to conduct their work in safety. In particular, we urge that immediate steps be taken to assure the safety of Mr. Wasant Panich.
2. Ensure competent, impartial and prompt investigation by authorities of all reports of attacks and threats against human rights defenders, and bring those responsible to justice under charges appropriate to the gravity of offences.
3. Conduct an independent, impartial and complete investigation into the deaths of those found in the mass graves in the south of Thailand.
We respectfully request your urgent response to this letter.