BANGKOK – The representative of Human Rights Watch in Thailand criticised the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) for displaying bias against the Redshirts and downplaying the heavy-handed tactics of the authorities in its report on 2010 political unrest.
The report claims that the decision of the government under then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to use military force against the protests organised by the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) was "appropriate" because the protesters have overstepped the extent of freedom of assembly guaranteed by the Constitution.
The protests started in mid-March 2010, and were ended in May 2010 when the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES), chaired by Mr. Abhisit, launched a military operation to dislodge the protesters who had been occupying financial districts of Bangkok.
Mr. Sunai Phasuk, the senior researcher for the Thailand′s chapter of the Human Right Watch, said that the NHRC should strive to be an independent organization, and should not present such a "biased" report against any party involved in the 2010 violence, particularly the UDD and its supporters.
Mr. Sunai believed that the NHRC report is flawed because its authors did not apply the same standard when they assessed the actions of the government and the Redshirts. Other critics and activists have voiced similar displeasure at the NHRC report, 92 pages long and based on interviews of around 180 individuals.
He pointed to the contents in the report, which stated that the many of the former government′s actions ‘will not be evaluated, due to the fact that they are yet to be determined by the court’, referring to the ongoing legal case against the authorities for their actions in the crackdown.
However, Mr. Sunai noted, the same report criticised many actions of the Redshirts even though they also involve details that remain under the deliberation of the court.
In Mr. Sunai′s opinion, the NHRC also failed to question the government′s use of force, particularly on the 10 April, when the military used live ammunition against the protesters during its failed attempt to crush the protesters, and on 13 May, when CRES again announced the extensive use of live ammunition as the military tightened its noose around the protesters' encampments.
The use of live ammunition, in Mr. Sunai perspective, was bound to cause harm to uninvolved civilians and increase the risk that the military personnel would employ excessive violence. He wondered why the NHRC said not question the authorities' decision in this matter.
“The report criticised how the UDD protesters violated the law, but failed to criticise the government when it exceeds the boundary of the law by using military force against the protesters, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 100 people,” said Mr. Sunai
Moreover, Mr. Sunai said that the NHRC was determined to believe that there are members of ‘the Black Shirt’ militants among the protesters and spent much of the report talking about the shadowy group. But at the same time, it avoided mentioning the existence of the snipers, who had been positioned on top of many buildings.
Mr. Sunai believed that both issues deserve equal attention, particularly when there are proves that soldiers perched on such higher ground were responsible for deaths of 2 volunteer medics and 4 other civilians in Wat Pathumwanaram Temple, as the court inquest ruled recently.
The NHRC should, like other independent organisation, objectively write about the incident, said Mr. Sunai. "By doing so, the NHRC would gain more public acceptance about its role in finding what happened, and how the society could contribute to the case," he told our correspondent.
The arrival of the NHRC report coincides with the ongoing Parliament′s deliberation on the Amnesty Bill, which is being reviewed under a committee formed by the Parliament.
The Bill was proposed by an MP of the ruling Pheu Thai Party who argued that protesters charged with crimes they allegedly committed during 2010 protests should receive legal amnesty. Under the Bill, many Redshirts currently imprisoned for their alleged crimes would be immediately released instead of fighting a lengthy legal battle.
However, the opposition insisted that the Bill equals to bending the laws in favour of the government′s supporters, and many Democrat Party MPs charged that it was the protesters who were responsible for much of human rights abuses in 2010 unrests – a point seemingly reinforced by NHCR′s report.
“The report from biased perspective would only cause an endless blame game” Mr. Sunai told our correspondent, “The report had been rightly criticised because it created more political division, and did not live up to its task as a peace-building process in the country”
Furthermore, he said, the report contributes very little toward the debate in Amnesty Bill as the NHRC did not define clearly who deserves legal punishment, or who deserves amnesty. "It is the NHRC′s responsibility to declare who had violated human rights, not writing a descriptive report about it," Mr. Sunai complains.
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