ASIA: Religious violence in Asia and impunity for Somchai’s disappearance in Thailand denounced

An Oral Statement to the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status

ASIA: Religious violence in Asia and impunity for Somchai’s disappearance in Thailand denounced

Thank you, 

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) would, at the outset, like to express its deepest sympathy and solidarity with the people of Japan. 

The ALRC is gravely concerned by Sri Lanka’s perilous plunge into autocracy. Increasing religious violence against minorities, as witnessed in Indonesia concerning Ahmadiyyas, and Pakistan concerning Christians and those opposing the archaic and flawed blasphemy law, is also greatly disturbing. The assassination on March 2, of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Religious Minorities, exactly two months after that of former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, shows the extent to which such violence is tolerated, and promoted through impunity, in Pakistan. 

The case of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaipaijit, who was forcibly disappeared seven years ago in Thailand, is emblematic of challenges in the region. On March 11, 2011, the Criminal Court acquitted the five alleged perpetrators in this case, exposing a system of impunity. The verdict ruled that Somchai’s wife, Anghkana, who addressed this Council just last week, and her children, cannot be joint-plaintiffs, preventing them from seeking justice. The defendants were all acquitted because of the lack of legislation specifically prohibiting enforced disappearance and because evidence of Somchai’s death was not possible. In cases of disappearance, the person’s death or injury can, by definition, not be ascertained. 

The Thai legal system, through omission, therefore obstructs any possibility of seeking justice and redress concerning forced disappearances. Furthermore, witnesses have been harassed, and witness Abduloh Abukaree was even disappeared in 2009, contributing significantly to these shocking acquittals. The ALRC calls on the Thai Government to exercise its right of reply to commit to criminalizing forced disappearances, ratifying the Convention on disappearances, and ensuring effective investigations and the protection of witnesses, before it can even begin to be taken seriously. The security of Somchai’s family members and witnesses must be absolutely and publicly guaranteed by the Thai Government in this Council today. 

Thank you.