Annual Report: Thailand 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Thailand 2011

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At least five cases were brought under the Computer-related Crimes Act for content deemed offensive to the monarchy and/or a threat to national security, bringing the total to 15 since the Act was promulgated in 2007.

  • On 29 April, businessman Wipas Raksakulthai was arrested for forwarding a message on the social networking site, Facebook, which allegedly violated the lèse majesté law. A prisoner of conscience, he was refused bail and at the end of the year remained in detention awaiting a trial date.M
  • On 24 September, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of online newspaper Prachatai, was arrested for comments posted on the website which violated the lèse majesté law. She was released on bail and at year's end was waiting for a referral to the public prosecutor.

Refugees and migrants

Migrant workers who did not register their status before a 28 February deadline were forcibly removed to Myanmar, and were subject to trafficking and extortion by both Thai officials and a Myanmar government-backed ethnic minority militia. In November, Thailand violated the principle of non-refoulement by forcing many refugees fleeing from fighting in Myanmar to return there, placing them at risk of serious human rights abuses. A government process with the stated aim of verifying the immigration status of over 1.4 million registered migrant workers was marred by concerns for the safety of Myanmar nationals who had to return to Myanmar to take part; unregulated brokers charging extortionate fees; and insufficient provision of information to those meant to take part. The verification process excluded the roughly 1.4 million other migrant workers who did not register with the immigration authorities before the 28 February deadline.

Irrespective of their immigration status, many foreign nationals - mainly from Asia - continued to face discrimination in access to work, industrial accident compensation, and disability registration, and were subject to restrictions on their movements as well as dangerous and unhealthy working conditions. Alleged instances of extortion, torture and other violence against migrant workers by both employers and officials, including, in particular, law enforcement officers, were either not investigated or not prosecuted.

Following an influx of at least 20,000 refugees in early November, many returned to Myanmar voluntarily, but others were forced to return or were prevented from crossing the border into Thailand. This was also true throughout the rest of the year in relation to smaller groups of refugees escaping sporadic fighting across the border.

  • In Waw Lay village in Phop Phra district in Tak province, Thai authorities forcibly returned 166 Burmese refugees on 25 December, at least 360 on 8 December, roughly 650 on 17 November, and approximately 2,500 on 10 November.

Internal armed conflict

Human rights abuses by all sides continued in the internal armed conflict in Thailand's predominantly Muslim southern provinces, where the Emergency Decree was renewed for the 21st time since July 2005 (it was lifted in one district in late December). The security forces continued to use torture on suspects, leading to several deaths in custody. Armed groups continued to target civilians, both Buddhist and Muslim, and to carry out indiscriminate attacks, particularly during the Ramadan period. Attacks on teachers and schools reached such a level in October that nearly all schools in the south closed for a week. On the sixth anniversary of the deaths of 85 people in Tak Bai, Narathiwat province, and after a 2009 decision not to prosecute the security forces involved, 14 co-ordinated bomb attacks took place, killing two people and injuring 74 others.

The government passed legislation to empower the civilian-led Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre to operate independently of the military and report directly to the Prime Minister, but impunity continued for the security forces.