EU laments rights issues ahead of vote

EU laments rights issues ahead of vote

New attitude courses labelled 'alarming'

A delegation of European Union (EU) members has urged Thailand to uphold democratic values during the national transition and called the regime's ramped-up attitude-adjustment courses against those expressing dissent an "alarming development".

Luisa Ragher, chargé d'affaires of the Delegation of the European Union to Thailand, on Thursday led 18 ambassadors and chargés d'affaires to meet deputy permanent secretary for foreign affairs Panyarak Poolthup, who was filling in for the foreign affairs minister.

In a statement, the EU said: "The use of attitude adjustment goes against this and the recent announcement that this tool will continue to be used, and even for longer periods, against those expressing a dissenting view is an alarming development."

EU ambassadors expressed concern over the recent NCPO Order 13/2559, which grants soldiers from the rank of sub-lieutenant up broad powers to conduct inquiries, and proceed with arrests and detentions without a court warrant for offences which are broad and ill-defined.

"Granting powers of the police and the judiciary to military personnel increases the risk of arbitrary detentions, breaches the rule of law and deprives citizens of essential legal protection and due judicial process," the EU said in a statement.

EU ambassadors called upon the Thai government to uphold principles of freedom of expression and opinion and allow all voices to be heard.

"This is of utmost importance for the referendum in order to be considered the result of a free and fair expression of the will of all people of Thailand and to be accepted by them as such."

The EU's concerns also included restrictions on freedom of movement, with citizens banned from leaving the country. A diplomat, who asked not to be named, said the EU was particularly concerned about the overseas travel ban for Khaosod English's senior staff reporter Pravit Rojanapruek, who has been vocal about his time spent in attitude adjustment.

"The outstanding case is [regarding] former Nation senior reporter Pravit Rojanaphruk who was invited by the Finnish government to attend the World Media Freedom Day on 3 May but was then barred from the NCPO [from going] to the meeting," the envoy said.

The charter-drafting process has already been opened to public participation and the government has placed an emphasis on reform geared toward prosperity and sustainability, the ministry said in its statement.

The referendum will be held on Aug 7 with the election scheduled in 2017.

The ministry added that Thailand has abided by international human rights and laws.

"Order No 13 is to eliminate mafias in drug trafficking, prostitution and trafficking in persons by shortening the process to bring in the perpetrators. The courts still have the final say in the rulings."

It also said Thailand reaffirmed freedom of expression but balanced peace and prevented disunity in society as the country was in a transition period and requires reconciliation.

"The attitude-adjustment courses are arranged in a civil manner with media observation. The EU embassies are urged to listen to fair and rounded information," it said.

Government spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday the government has respected the rule of law and basic human rights of the people.

The EU ambassadors said "the role of the Foreign Ministry in ensuring that Thailand, as a UN member and key international partner, abides by its international obligations", and that the EU "and its member states ... encourage Thailand to respect core democratic principles and values during this process of transition".

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