Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rights group concerned over Thai policy on refugees, migrants

Friday, 22 January 2010 15:31 Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Deteriorating human rights records is in evidence in Thailand given the country’s policy on migrant workers and refugees, the Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2010.

The HRW released a 612-page report on Wednesday, the organization's 20th annual review of human rights practices around the globe. It evaluated the situation in Thailand, and said that the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had largely failed to fulfill its pledges to make human rights a priority.

Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch said while Prime Minister Abhisit sometimes said the right things about human rights in 2009, his actions didn't match his words. "The government continually undermined respect for human rights and the due process of law in Thailand."

Abhisit's government blatantly flouted Thailand's obligations under international law to protect refugees and asylum seekers, the group said.

The expression of the hostile policy towards refugees and asylum seekers, was in evidence in January 2009, when in his capacity as chairman of the National Security Council, Abhisit approved a directive authorizing the military to intercept boats carrying ethnic Rohingya from Burma and Bangladesh.

The Thai Navy subsequently intercepted several boats transporting Rohingya and towed the rickety vessels back to the ocean with inadequate supplies of food and water. While Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, the Thai government has an obligation under international law of nonrefoulement (non-return) of persons to places where their life or freedom is at risk.

"Prime Minister Abhisit did not honour his pledge to uphold human rights principles and international law in 2009," Adams said. "Getting Thailand back on track as a rights-respecting nation in 2010 is crucial both for the country and the region."

The Thai government gave the green signal to the army to deport more than 4,600 Lao Hmong refugees and asylum seekers on December 28, despite international concerns including that of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Secretary-General.

HRW also noted the failure to act against official abuses by the police. Despite the government's strong opposition to the violent approach to drug eradication by the exiled former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, it remained unwilling to bring to justice officials allegedly responsible for more than 2,500 unresolved extrajudicial killings and serious abuses committed during Thaksin's 2003 "war on drugs" and the ongoing drug suppression operations by the police.

“At the local level, the government continued to ignore systemic police violence and extortion targeting the over two million migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos,” HRW noted.

In addition, the other human rights backslide in Thailand are the growing crackdowns on protesters and other political critics, including intensive surveillance of the internet and a failure to curb abuses by security forces in response to the longtime insurgency in the south.