For Immediate Release
Thailand: Ensure Rights of Detained Protesters
Emergency Decree Raises Fears of Mistreatment
NEW YORK - The Thai government should ensure that people detained under
emergency regulations during the recent political violence are not held
in secret detention or mistreated, Human Rights Watch said today.
This week Thai security forces forcibly dispersed thousands of
supporters of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD),
known as the Red Shirts, who had encamped in Bangkok's commercial
district since March and had engaged in increasingly violent actions.
The government arrested several UDD leaders and many of their
"This terrible crisis is no excuse for mistreating detained
protesters or holding them in secret detention," said Elaine Pearson,
acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Those who committed crimes
should be properly charged, but all should be treated according to
international human rights standards and due process of law."
On April 7, 2010, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjavija declared a state
of emergency in Bangkok and other provinces in response to the UDD
demonstrations and law-breaking. Tensions intensified since May 14,
resulting in Thailand's most brutal street fighting in decades as
government security forces engaged heavily armed anti-government
militants mixed in among non-violent UDD protesters in Bangkok. Armed
confrontations have resulted in at least 52 deaths and more than 450
injuries, and violence has spread to other parts of the country.
The Thai government's use of its draconian Emergency Decree on Public
Administration in a State of Emergency ("Emergency Decree") raises
concerns that the rights of detained protesters will not be respected,
Human Rights Watch said. The Emergency Decree provides Thai authorities
with legal immunity and broad powers to detain individuals without
charge in informal places of detention. It does not ensure either
effective judicial oversight or prompt access to legal counsel and
family members. The government's Center for the Resolution of Emergency
Situations (CRES) has so far failed to provide information about the
number of detainees and their current whereabouts, heightening concerns
The risk of "disappearances," torture and other ill-treatment
significantly increases when detainees are held incommunicado in
unofficial locations and under the control of the military, which lacks
training and experience in civilian law enforcement, Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch expressed alarm at reports that the Emergency
Decree is being used to hold persons in unofficial places of detention,
such as military camps, instead of in police stations and jails. On
April 22, the CRES ordered the use of three military camps in
Prachinburi and Kanchanaburi provinces to detain protesters. On May 19,
it was reported that a Border Patrol Police camp in Petchaburi province
will be specifically used for detaining and interrogating leaders of the
UDD, including Jatuporn Prompan, Nathawut Saikua, Veera Musikhapong,
Weng Tojirakarn Korkaew Pikulthong, Kwanchai Praipana, Wiphuthalaeeng
Pattanaphumthai, Nisit Sinthuprai, and Yosvaris Chuklom.
Since April 15, the CRES has also summoned hundreds of politicians,
former government officials, businessmen, activists, academics, and
community radio operators, to answer allegations of involvement in the
ongoing protests. Under the Emergency Decree, the CRES is empowered to
arrest all who fail to appear.
"Secret detention sites and unaccountable officials are a recipe for
human rights abuses," Pearson said. "Those arrested should be promptly
brought before a judge and charged with a criminal offense or released."
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.