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Thailand’s Military Rulers Are Reportedly Violating Human Rights

Hundreds have been detained and forced to undergo “attitude adjustment” since the coup in May, according to a report by Amnesty International.

by Oscar Webb
Sep 11 2014, 8:21pm

Photo via Flickr

Since overthrowing the country's elected government in May, Thailand's military junta has removed and weakened human rights protections, detaining hundreds of people and forcing hundreds more to undergo "attitude adjustment," according to a report by Amnesty International.

Following the coup, more than 570 Thais were reportedly ordered to report to the military. Of those who responded, 240 have been detained on arbitrary grounds so that they can "cool off," or have "attitude adjustment," the report said.

More than 60 people currently face criminal prosecution before military courts. Most of those targeted are politicians, but 141 are academics, writers, journalists, or activists.

"The right to a fair trial is in jeopardy," the report said. Those facing trial in military courts have no right to appeal.

Thailand's military chiefs, organized around the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), seized power on May 20 after months of anti-government protests. The NCPO implemented martial law — outlawing gatherings of more than five people — sacked the reigning government, dissolved the parliament, and repealed most of Thailand's constitution.

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The deputy commissioner of Bangkok's police, Amnuay Nimmano, told Amnesty that people were "invited for conversations to adjust their way of thinking. People with different thoughts will have the tendency to create violence — they were invited in to adjust their way of thinking and return them to society."

Thailand's military government has curtailed freedom of expression by implementing "sweeping restrictions… blocking and shutting down websites and community radio stations and stopping the dissemination of critical information, including in schools and universities," according to the Amnesty report.

As a condition of being released, the military has reportedly made the detainees sign declarations saying they've been "treated well and not hurt, forced, coerced, deceived, tortured, promised, or mistreated in any way."

"The worst that I experienced was when they placed a plastic bag over my head, tied up the ends, and put a cloth bag over my head."

Kritsuda Khunasen, who was detained for 29 days and interrogated by the military, reported being tortured.

"If I was too slow when answering, didn't speak, didn't answer the question in a direct manner, or said I didn't know, I was beaten with a fist to my face, head, stomach and body," Khunasen told Amnesty International. "The worst that I experienced was when they placed a plastic bag over my head, tied up the ends, and put a cloth bag over my head."

Khunasen is now seeking political asylum abroad.

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Duncan McCargo, a Thailand expert from Chatham House, an independent policy institute based in London, told VICE News that the curtailment of human rights could be seen as part of the military's attempt to consolidate power and dampen any remnants of the dissent expressed in protests earlier this year.

"The sad fact is that military coups in Thailand tend to be 'popular,' especially in the capital… they occur at times of heightened political tension and bring with them a sense of relief," McCargo said.

Many businesses have reported that they are benefitting from the relative stability of military rule, but McCargo believes the junta's popularity may nonetheless be short lived. He speculated that Thais might become "bored" of the coup, citing trends that occurred after previous coups in 1991 and 2006, when the junta called elections and subsequently bailed out.

"Thais, of whatever political persuasion, are very used to expressing their views, and soon get tired of leaders who lecture them and seem too attached to power," McCargo said.

McCargo said he believes "Thailand has a future as a democracy," but the question of exactly when or how that transition will occur remains unanswered.

"Thais have a very ambivalent relationship with authority," McCargo said. "The junta doesn't necessarily need to be overthrown, it just needs to bail out and restore electoral politics. The question is just when — and on what terms — it will do so."

Follow Oscar Webb on Twitter: @owebb

Photo via Flickr

Amnesty International
martial law
Chatham House
attitude adjustment
duncan mccargo
national council for peace and order
thai military junta