THAILAND: Military rule; martial law; threats to human rights defenders; restrictions on freedom of assembly & expression
The military junta that since September 19 has taken over government in Thailand has shut down at least two critical websites and also numerous local radio stations. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) calls for your support to urge that people in Thailand be entitled to speak and act freely in response to the illegal takeover of power by the army.
The two websites that have been shut down were a new one set up by human rights defenders in Thailand in response to the coup, www.19sep.org, which was closed shortly after it was activated, and the Midnight University website, www.midnightuniv.org.
Midnight University is a leading non-formal education centre. Its Thai-language website has been well-established, with over half a million visitors per month from all over the world, thousands of articles and discussion boards. The site was shut down on September 29 after its staff held a protest against the coup on September 28, during which they ripped up pieces of paper labelled “interim constitution”, in reference to the temporary charter that the military regime has had prepared. The protest was not covered in the mainstream media but reported on the independent Prachatai website (in Thai).
Both websites were reportedly shut by the Ministry of Information & Communication Technology, which has been authorised to censor any media outlets that are found to be acting contrary to the interests of the regime.
The Midnight University has announced that although it could easily reopen the site from abroad, as a matter of principle it will not do so and has instead demanded that the ministry lift the ban on the site.
DENIALS OF FREE SPEECH & ASSEMBLY:
Despite the appearances that the new junta has attempted to create, there have been many restrictions placed on speech and assembly in Thailand since September 19, some direct and many more subtle.
There are persistent reports of close monitoring and management of broadcast media, including patrolling of soldiers at television stations and inspections of radio facilities. Hundreds of local radio stations have either been closed or are operating under restrictions. In the north, where the former government had strong support, radio operators are being inspected and have been informed that only a few will be allowed to stay open. All broadcast outlets have been told to “cooperate” with the new regime.
The junta has also not yet revoked any of its orders banning political assembly and movements by local administrative leaders, or other restrictions on broadcasts involving spontaneous giving of opinion, such as by talkback radio and SMS text sending to television programmes.
The effect of all these prohibitions and restrictions has been to create a false impression of widespread support for the junta. This is inevitably causing frustration among persons who are opposed to the takeover but without avenues to speak out, on the pretext of “national unity”.
For instance, a taxi driver sprayed his car with anti-coup slogans and drove it in to a tank on September 30 in an act of protest. He survived the crash and in hospital has said that he did it because he wanted to show that the junta does not have the support that it pretends to have.
International media rights group Reporters Without Borders also today issued an open letter to the newly-appointed interim prime minister, deploring self-censorship and restrictions on media outlets in Thailand. It also reports that a BBC news article has been blocked to users in Thailand. The letter can be read at: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=19055.
UPDATE ON PREVIOUS APPEAL:
On October 1 the four former government ministers detained after the coup were released without charge (see UP-189-2006).
According to news reports, the police had been instructed by the coup group to “monitor” the four. No information was given out publicly on what was meant by that.
Recent releases by the AHRC on other developments in Thailand are:
AS-232-2006 “The right man for what job?”
AS-229-2006 “Misunderstanding the coup”
AHRC-PL-088-2006 “Protests against coup in Korea & Thailand”
Please show your support for the Midnight University and other human rights defenders in Thailand by calling for a lift on the bans on websites and other restrictions placed upon people in Thailand by the military regime there. Please also call for the regime to unconditionally withdraw from power and allow for the writing of a new constitution under a democratically elected government (for more discussion, see AS-232-2006).
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
THAILAND: Shut down of websites by military junta
I am writing to you regarding the forcible closure of websites by the military junta in Thailand, and other actions contrary to free expression and human rights.
The Ministry of Information & Communication Technology has closed at least two websites, and reportedly restricted others. The two websites are www.19sep.org, which was set up by rights defenders in Thailand after the coup, and www.midnightuniv.org, a well established and popular site for non-formal education and critical exchange. The Midnight University site was closed on September 29 after its staff protested against the military coup.
I join calls for these sites to be allowed to operate freely from Thailand, and for other restrictions on free speech there by the military regime to cease at once. This must include the withdrawal of military personnel from broadcasting facilities, the ceasing of activities intended to shut down local radio stations, and the lifting of orders inimical to free opinion and assembly, notably Order No. 5 and Announcement nos. 7, 10, 15, 22 and 27.
I also note with concern the introduction of a new interim constitution that secures further power for the military authorities in Thailand. I do not believe that the arrangements made under this constitution will lead to a return to democracy or protection of human rights in Thailand. I urge that the Royal Thai Army and other parts of the armed forces withdraw fully and unconditionally from the political process and allow for a free and fair election, after which a new constitution may be drafted by elected representatives, not military appointees.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. General Surayud Chulanont
Interim Prime Minister
c/o Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Tel: +662 280 1404/ 3000
Fax: +662 282 8631/ 280 1589/ 629 8213
2. Mr. Kraisorn Pornsutee
Ministry of Information & Communication Technology
Building 9, TOT Public Co. Ltd.
Chaeng Wattana Road
Laksi, Bangkok 10210
Tel: +662 505 8886/ 7103
Fax: +662 568 2583
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
3. Mr. Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
443 Sri Ayudhya Road
Fax: +662 643 5111/ 5320
Tel: +662 643 5271/ 5333
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Mr. Luis Alfonso de Alba
UN Human Rights Council
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 9012 (ATTN: PRESIDENT HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL)
5. Ms. Louise Arbour
High Commissioner for Human Rights
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917-9012 (ATTN: HIGH COMMISSIONER)
6. Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo
Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression
c/o J Deriviero
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9177
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION)
7. Prof. Saneh Chamarik
National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
422 Phya Thai Road
Pathum Wan District
Tel: +662 2219 2980
Fax: +66 2 219 2940
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (email@example.com)