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February 6, 2015

US tells Thailand to restore democracy or alliance is over

Police stand guard outside the US embassy in Bangkok January 28, 2015. — Reuters pic

BANGKOK, Feb 6 — The United States will not fully reactivate its military alliance with Thailand as long as the junta-controlled country refuses to restore democracy, a US diplomat warned yesterday.

“There has to be a full restoration both of the institutions of governance and justice as well as the full restoration of a duly democratically elected civilian government,” the senior State Department official told journalists.

It follows a recent visit by Daniel Russel, the most senior US official to travel to the kingdom since Thai generals imposed martial law and took over in a coup last May.

The United States strongly condemned the coup at the time, with chief diplomat John Kerry calling for a return to civilian rule via democratic elections.

Washington and Bangkok maintain a military alliance dating to the Cold War and the fight against communism in Southeast Asia, notably during the Vietnam War.

US and Thai armed forces remain tightly linked, but the United States cancelled joint military exercises after the coup and suspended a small part of its military assistance to Thailand. — AFP

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February 6, 2015

Thailand’s Military Moves Closer To China


Thailand’s Military Moves Closer To China

Scott Neuman@
February 06, 201511:45 AM ET
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China’s Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, left, and Thailand’s Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan walk during a ceremony at the Ministry of Defense in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday.

Sakchai Lalit/AP

Updated at 12:55 p.m. ET

Thailand’s junta — smarting over U.S. criticism of last year’s coup that ousted an elected government — has announced that it will strengthen military ties with China over the next five years.

An agreement with Beijing was announced during a two-day visit to Bangkok by China’s defense minister, Chang Wanquan, reports Michael Sullivan. The two sides say they’ll increase cooperation in intelligence-gathering and fighting transnational crime.

The Bangkok Post says: “China’s Defense Minister Chang Wanquan also took pains to stress that Beijing has no plans to ‘interfere’ with Thailand’s military regime, something the Thai government feels its long-time ally, the United States, did last month during the visit of a high-ranking diplomat.”

The high-ranking diplomat in question, Daniel Russel, is the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs. Russel sparked the ire of Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government last month with a speech at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University that criticized the government’s crackdown on free expression and called for an end to martial law, which has been in force since the May coup.

“I’ll be blunt here,” Russel told the audience at Chulalongkorn, one of Thailand’s most prestigious universities. “When an elected leader is deposed, impeached by the authorities that implemented the coup, and then targeted with criminal charges while basic democratic processes and institutions are interrupted, the international community is left with the impression that these steps could be politically driven.”

The remarks referred to the impeachment of twice-elected former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose government was ousted in the May putsch. Her impeachment came months after she was ousted and living in self-imposed exile.

After the speech, Thailand’s deputy foreign minister summoned the U.S. embassy’s charge d’affaires, W. Patrick Murphy, to express his concern over “a wound that the U.S. inflicted on Thai people.”

Thailand’s move is viewed as a possible shift away from Washington, even as the U.S. has hoped to pivot toward Asia.

The two countries are viewed as strong allies and closely cooperated during the Vietnam War, despite Thailand’s revolving door of military governments. Even so, an annual joint military exercise between the two countries, known as Cobra Gold, is scheduled to go ahead as planned on Feb. 9, although Washington has scaled back the scope of it since the May 22 coup.

On Thursday in Washington, U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. would not fully reactivate its military alliance with Thailand until there has been a “full restoration both of the institutions of governance and justice as well as the full restoration of a duly democratically elected civilian government.”

In addition to moving closer to China, Thailand’s new leadership has also sought closer ties with neighboring Myanmar, which has its own history of military governments.

February 6, 2015

Thailand boosts military ties with China amid U.S. spat

 Reuters U.S. Edition

Thailand boosts military ties with China amid U.S. spat

BANGKOK. Fri Feb 6, 2015 2:39am EST

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Chang reviews a guard of honour at the Defence Ministry in Bangkok

China’s Defence Minister Chang Wanquan, accompanied by Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (L), reviews a guard of honour during his visit to Thailand, at the Defence Ministry in Bangkok February 6, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

(Reuters) – China and Thailand agreed on Friday to boost military ties over the next five years, from increasing intelligence sharing to fighting transnational crime, as the ruling junta seeks to counterbalance the country’s alliance with Washington.

The agreement came during a two-day visit by China’s Defence Minister Chang Wanquan to Bangkok, and as Thailand’s military government looks to cultivate Beijing’s support amid Western unease over a delayed return to democracy.

“China has agreed to help Thailand increase protection of its own country and advise on technology to increase Thailand’s national security,” Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.

“China will not intervene in Thailand’s politics but will give political support and help maintain relationships at all levels. This is China’s policy.”

Under the junta, Thailand has stepped up engagement with China at a time when Beijing increases its influence in Southeast Asia with a raft of loans and aid for infrastructure.

At the same time, Washington has sought to show its renewed commitment to a strategic “pivot” toward Asia by boosting military ties and equipment sales across the region.

Prawit said Thailand and China agreed to increase joint military exercises, but did not give further details.

“We agreed to increase joint military exercises between Thailand’s air force and China’s air force and to increase overall military cooperation over the next three to five years,” he said.

Thailand’s army took control last May saying it needed to restore order after months of political unrest including street protests in Bangkok that killed nearly 30 people. The United States, a long-time ally of Thailand, expressed dismay at the coup and froze $4.7 million of security-related assistance and canceled some security cooperation.

U.S.-Thai relations deteriorated further last month when Bangkok accused Washington of meddling in its political affairs over the remarks by a visiting U.S. envoy who criticized the junta.

The junta has said it will hold onto power for at least another year, with a general election planned for early 2016.

Despite the tensions, the U.S. will hold its annual Cobra Gold combined military exercise with Thailand next week. The drill, however, has been scaled down in scope to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The drill, the Asia-Pacific’s largest annual multinational military exercise, also involves China.

(Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)



January 24, 2015

What It Is And How It Toppled Thai Leader Yingluck Shinawatra

Thailand Rice Subsidy Scheme: What It Is And How It Toppled Thai Leader Yingluck Shinawatra


on January 23 2015 10:27 AM

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Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives at Parliament before the National Legislative Assembly meeting. Yingluck was impeached over her controversial rice subsidy program Friday. Reuters

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was impeached Friday for her role in a rice subsidy program that cost the Thai government billions. The rice subsidy that was supposed to help farmers eventually saw Yingluck ousted from the government, sparked protests and led to the former government leader’s expulsion from Thai politics for five years. So how did the subsidy program work exactly?

The rice program introduced in 2011 sought to buy rice from local farmers at above-market prices, stockpile them to drive up global prices, and then sell them for increased revenue. Thailand was the world’s largest exporter of rice at the time and had the clout to affect prices of the staple. The program was earlier promoted by Yingluck’s brother Thaksin, who was the former prime minister and is now exiled from the country.

The program was one of the main campaign messages that Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party ran on, winning her party a landslide election in 2011. “It helped those with lower incomes earn more,” she said at her impeachment hearing on Thursday, according to Reuters. “Farmers are the backbone of the country.” Farmers account for 23 percent of Thailand’s 67 million people.

The subsidy was popular with farmers initially as they expanded their production in Thailand’s rural north. “I wanted to get more money,” farmer Jaroen Namhap told the Wall Street Journal. “Many other farmers in this district decided to do the same thing by expanding the amount of land used to grow rice. The government was offering such a good price. It was much better than selling to rice mills.”

However, the program went south when India returned to the rice export market after a long absence, and prices dropped worldwide. Yingluck’s government began to run out of money to support the subsidy, and many farmers are still waiting for payment from the government for the rice they turned in. Rice farmers had threatened to park 100 tractors at the Thailand airport in protest.

Yingluck’s rice subsidy program supposedly cost the government some 500 billion Thai baht ($15.3) in losses. Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission found Yingluck guilty of corruption last May for ignoring flaws in her program to advance her populist political agenda. “The rice subsidy is fraught with weaknesses and risks at every level, leading to corruption and impacting the state budget, farmers and the country’s fiscal position,” Commissioner Vicha Mahakun said at a news conference announcing the panel’s verdict, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Thai Constitutional Court removed Yingluck from office in May, sparking protests from the pro-Yingluck faction known as the Red Shirts. Opposition to Yingluck’s government, comprising many of the country’s traditional elite, planned their own rallies, too. A military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order, was established at the ousting of Yingluck and has imposed martial law since May.

Thailand’s current National Legislative Assembly is mostly comprised of military officers put in place by the junta government, known for its strict censorship laws and nationalist policies. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had said he did not order the NLA to vote to indict Yingluck, according to Reuters. Yingluck also faces criminal charges for the rice subsidy program that could see her jailed for up to 10 years.

“Thai democracy has died along with the rule of law,” Yingluck said in a statement posted on her Facebook page, reported by Reuters. “I will fight until the end to prove my innocence, no matter what the outcome will be. And most importantly, I want to stand alongside the Thai people. Together we must bring Thailand prosperity, bring back democracy and truly build justice in Thai society.”

January 19, 2015

Laos: Government’s failure to live up to its UPR commitments calls for more international pressure

19 January 2015

Laos: Government’s failure to live up to its UPR commitments calls for more international pressure

Paris, 19 January 2015: The Lao government’s clear and undeniable failure to live up to its human rights commitments calls for more political pressure by the international community, FIDH and its member organization, the Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR), said today. The two organizations made the call ahead of the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos, which will take place on 20 January in Geneva.

“Pouring increasing amounts of aid into Laos while remaining silent on the serious human rights violations taking place in the country just hasn’t worked,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “It’s time for the international community to start applying real political pressure on the government to ensure it addresses human rights issues and undertakes genuine legislative and institutional reforms.”

Laos accepted 115 of the 145 recommendations made by other countries at its first UPR in May 2010. Despite committing to ratifying or acceding to five key international human rights instruments, Laos has become a party to only one of them – the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Six years after its signature, Laos has not yet ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED). In addition, the government has failed to adequately investigate most cases of enforced disappearances. This includes the failure to investigate the disappearance of prominent civil society leader and human rights defender Sombath Somphone on 15 December 2012 in Vientiane.

Laos also pledged cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms. However, in the past five years, the government has neither issued any standing invitation for missions to Laos nor allowed any official visit to the country by the UN special procedures. In addition, five reports to main UN treaty bodies are overdue – one of them by nearly six years.

In stark contrast to its UPR pledges to make progress toward combating trafficking in persons and ensuring the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of religion, key indicators point to a lack of improvement in the situation in these areas.

After placing Laos on its ‘Tier 2’ for three consecutive years, in 2014 the US State Department downgraded the country to the “Tier 2 watch list” (the second-lowest tier) for the government’s failure to fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.

Laos ranked 168th out of 178 countries surveyed by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) in its 2010 Press Freedom Index. In the 2014 Index, it ranked 171th out of 180.

Freedom House has consistently rated the Laos as ‘not free’ in its annual global survey on political rights and civil liberties. Recently-enacted legislation adds to a body of repressive laws that severely restrict the people’s enjoyment of their civil and political rights. Decree 327, adopted on 16 September 2014, contains excessively broad and vaguely-worded provisions that effectively criminalize any online criticism of the government and fall well below international standards on the right to freedom of expression. In addition, the disappearance of Sombath has had a ‘chilling effect’ on civil society in the country. Local organizations are unwilling to speak out against human right violations and to carry out activities for the protection and promotion of human rights because they are afraid of reprisal from the authorities.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has placed Laos on its “watch list” (Tier 2) since 2009. In its 2014 annual report, the USCIRF stated that serious religious freedom abuses continued, particularly in ethnic minority areas, and restrictive laws remained in place.

With regard to land rights, in their joint submission for the UPR, FIDH and LMHR detailed the serious and far-reaching human rights implications of large-scale land leases and concessions granted by the government in recent years. The two organizations also documented the government’s repression of land and environmental rights defenders who worked with communities affected by land concessions and advocated for a more sustainable and all-inclusive form of socio-economic development.

“The Lao government has said that the UPR is the only legitimate process to address human rights at the international level,” said LMHR President Vanida Thepsouvanh. “Regrettably, the government has virtually ignored most of the recommendations it accepted at its first UPR almost five years ago.”

Press contacts
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66 88 611 7722 (Bangkok)
FIDH: Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 (Paris)


Laos - 01

19 Janvier 2015

Laos : Le non respect des engagements pris par le gouvernement à l’EPU appelle à plus de pression internationale

Paris, le 19 Janvier 2015 : L’échec, manifeste et incontestable, du gouvernement lao à tenir ses engagements en matière de droits appelle à plus de pression politique de la communauté internationale, ont déclaré aujourd’hui la FIDH et son organisation membre, le Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l’Homme (MLDH). Les deux organisations ont lancé cet appel à la veille du deuxième examen périodique universel (EPU) du Laos, qui se tiendra le 20 Janvier à Genève.

« Verser des sommes croissantes d’aide au Laos tout en restant silencieux sur les graves violations des droits humains qui ont lieu dans le pays ne peut simplement pas fonctionner » , a déclaré président de la FIDH Karim Lahidji. « Il est temps pour la communauté internationale de commencer à appliquer une vraie pression politique sur le gouvernement pour s’assurer qu’il aborde les questions des droits humains et s’engage à de véritables réformes législatives et institutionnelles. »

Le Laos a accepté 115 des 145 recommandations formulées par d’autres pays à sa première EPU en mai 2010. Malgré ses engagements à ratifier ou accéder à cinq instruments internationaux clés des droits de l’homme, le Laos est devenu seulement partie prenante d’un seul d’entre eux : la Convention contre la torture et autres peines ou traitements cruels, inhumains ou dégradant.

Six ans après l’avoir signé, le Laos n’a pas encore ratifié la Convention Internationale pour la Protection de toutes les Personnes contre les Disparitions Forcées. En outre, le gouvernement a manqué d’enquêter de manière adéquate la plupart ces cas de disparitions forcées. Ceci inclut son échec à enquêter sur la disparition d’un proéminent leader de la société civile et défenseur des droits de l’homme, Sombath Somphone, survenu le 15 décembre 2012 à Vientiane.

Le Laos a également promis de coopérer avec les mécanismes des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies. Cependant, au cours des cinq dernières années, le gouvernement n’a émis aucune invitation permanente pour les missions au Laos, ni autorisé de visite officielles dans le pays aux procédures spéciales de l’ONU. En plus, cinq rapports principaux pour les organes de traités des Nations Unies sont en retard, dont un de presque six ans.

En contraste flagrant avec ses engagements auprès de l’EPU à faire des progrès dans la lutte contre la traite des personnes et de garantir la jouissance des droits à la liberté d’expression, la liberté d’association et la liberté de religion, les principaux indicateurs font état d’une absence d’amélioration de la situation dans ces domaines.

Après avoir placé le Laos dans la catégorie « Tier 2 » pendant trois années consécutives, en 2014, le Département d’Etat américain a abaissé le pays à “Tier 2 liste à surveiller” (le deuxième plus bas niveau) pour l’échec du gouvernement à se conformer pleinement aux normes minimales pour l’élimination de la traite des êtres humains.

Le Laos était classé 168e sur 178 pays par Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) dans son Indice de liberté de la presse en 2010. Dans l’indice 2014 de RSF, il est classé 171 sur 180.

Freedom House a toujours évalué le Laos comme ‘’non libre’’ dans son enquête mondiale annuelle sur les droits politiques et les libertés civiles. Une législation récemment adoptée vient rajouter un ensemble de lois répressives qui limitent gravement la jouissance du peuple de leurs droits civils et politiques. Le décret 327, adoptée le 16 Septembre 2014, contient des dispositions formulées en des termes extrêmement larges et vagues qui criminalisent efficacement toute critique sur internet du gouvernement et qui tombe bien en dessous des normes internationales relatives au droit à la liberté d’expression. En outre, la disparition de Sombath a eu un effet dissuasif sur la société civile dans le pays. Les organisations locales ne sont guère disposées à dénoncer les violations des droits et de mener des activités de protection et de promotion des droits humains parce qu’ils ont peur de représailles des autorités.

La Commission Américaine sur la Liberté Religieuse Internationale (USCIRF) a placé le Laos sur sa ‘’liste à surveiller’’ (Tier 2) depuis 2009. Dans son rapport annuel de 2014, USCIRF a déclaré que de graves violations de la liberté religieuse ont continué, notamment dans les régions des minorités ethniques, et que les lois restrictives restent en vigueur.

Concernant les droits fonciers, dans leur soumission conjointe pour l’EPU, la FIDH et le MLDH ont détaillé les graves et profondes implications sur les droits de l’homme dues aux baux et concessions de terres à grande échelle accordés par le gouvernement au cours des dernières années. Les deux organisations ont également documenté la répression du gouvernement sur les terres et les défenseurs des droits environnementaux qui ont travaillé avec les communautés touchées par les concessions foncières et a plaidé pour une forme de développement socio-économique plus durable et inclusive.

« Le gouvernement lao a dit que l’EPU est le seul processus légitime pour aborder les droits de l’homme au niveau international. Malheureusement, le gouvernement a quasiment ignoré la plupart des recommandations qu’il a acceptées lors de son premier EPU il y a près de cinq ans » , a déclaré la présidente du MLDH, Vanida Thephsouvanh.

Contacts Presse
FIDH : M. Andrea Giorgetta (Anglais) – Tel : +66 88 611 7722 (Bangkok)
FIDH : M. Arthur Manet (Français, Anglais, Espagnol) – Tel : +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
FIDH : Ms. Audrey Couprie (Français, Anglais, Espagnol) – Tel : +33 6 48 05 91 57 (Paris)


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