Dear Prime Minister,
We write to you about the need for the Thai government to urgently set up an impartial, independent, and transparent process to investigate human rights abuses committed by all sides during the recent protests and hold accountable all those found responsible. We note that in your statement to the nation on May 21, 2010, you committed your government to conduct an "independent investigation of all the events that have taken place during the protests."
Anti-government protests organized by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) began on March 12, 2010. During the ensuing street battles, which involved UDD protesters (known as "Red Shirts"), heavily armed militants linked to the UDD, pro-government groups, and Thai security forces, at least 85 people were killed and 1,898 were injured, according to the Public Health Ministry.
As a fundamental component of your "road map" for national reconciliation, you publicly endorsed an impartial investigation into politically motivated violence and abuses committed by all sides. You have also provided assurances that government officials, law enforcement officers, and security personnel will not seek amnesty to avoid accountability. Those pledges are welcome. It is now time to put words into actions.
We urge the Thai government to show its commitment to justice by using such mechanisms as the National Human Rights Commission, a parliamentary inquiry, and an independent commission specifically appointed for the inquiry that includes credible and respected, yet disparate, voices representing a broad range of the political spectrum.
A credible and impartial investigation will need to address abuses by both sides, particularly incidents in which people were killed or wounded. It should include acts of violence by UDD protesters and militants affiliated with the UDD against the security forces and civilians, including medical personnel and reporters, as well as looting, arson, and destruction of property. At the same time, this investigation also should examine decisions by the security forces to fire live ammunition and other possible misuses of force. The Thai government has international obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to investigate all police actions and actions of the security forces that violate such basic rights and hold perpetrators to account. In addition, an investigation should examine alleged abuses related to the enforcement of the Internal Security Act and the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in a State of Emergency.
In highlighting the need for an independent investigation, Human Rights Watch remains concerned about ongoing rights violations related to the recent violence. Of special concern is the safety of hundreds of UDD protesters and supporters who have been arrested over the past two months in Bangkok and elsewhere; to date, the government has failed to provide information about the identities of all those detained, the total number of detainees, and their current whereabouts and conditions. Additionally, the government's broad use of emergency powers to shut down more than 1,000 websites, a satellite television station, online television channels, and community radio stations, most of which are considered closely aligned with the UDD, violates the right to freedom of expression under international law.
Thailand is a newly elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. In this connection, Human Rights Watch urges the Thai government to be open to engaging with the council's reporting systems, as well as to fully cooperate with such mechanisms as the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the special rapporteur for extrajudicial executions, and the special rapporteur for freedom of opinion and expression.
We look forward to your attention and prompt response to these matters of concern.
Acting Executive Director, Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
Kasit Piromya, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Dr. Amara Pongsapitch, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission