Total silence from the Human Rights Commission and NGOs
as hundreds of pro-democracy academics and activists arrested
Giles Ji Ungpakorn
As hundreds of pro-democracy academics and activists are arrested by the Thai military junta, it is obvious to anyone with half a brain that this is a coup to destroy the redshirts and the democracy movement as a whole. Yellow shirts and anti-democratic mobsters who used violence to wreck the elections have been allowed to go free and have been photographing themselves in army uniforms as part of their celebrations.
There has been total silence from National Human Rights Commission and the mainstream academics, both about the coup and about these gross abuses of human rights.
I have surveyed the various declarations published on the “Prachatai” web newspaper since the coup and we can see a clear pattern.
While brave activists defy the junta by taking part in flash mobs and some mass protests in Bangkok and other cities, a number of organisations have made declarations which unconditionally condemn the coup. These organisations include The Assembly for the Defence of Democracy, The Assembly of the Poor, The 24th June Democracy Group (set up by Somyot), The 4 Regions Slum Dwellers, The Common People’s Party, The Group of 91 academics and students from the deep south, The Students Federation of Isarn, P-Move & YPD, The Community Network for Reform in Society and Politics, The Non-Violent activists around Kotom Araya and the Volunteer Graduates for the Defence of Democracy. Other groups, including left wing groups and street activists have not issued declarations but have opposed the coup by their actions.
A second group of people have criticised the coup, but have justified it at the same time. They argue that “both sides of the political divide” were responsible for the crisis and must make amends. In practical terms this implies that those who won elections and those who wanted to protect the democratic process were “as guilty” as those who used violence on the streets to wreck elections or used their illegitimate roles in the courts to frustrate democracy. This is a mealy-mouthed way of trying to look democratic while supporting the coup. This is the position of the National NGO Coordinating Committee and also 11 NGO figures from organisations such as FTA watch, Bio Thai, Women & Men Progressive Movement Foundation, Friends of the People, The Consumers Association and The Foundation for Labour and Employment Promotion. They call for a return to democracy at the “earliest opportunity”, something which General Prayut would easily agree, because no time frame is demanded. Also the National NGO Coordinating Committee seems to be more concerned to stop the junta from proposing any large scale infrastructure projects than to care about abuses of democratic rights.
A third group of people accept the coup and try to give the junta advice. This includes the Thailand Development Research Institute, Political Science academics from Thammasart and the Society to Prevent Global Warming.
After the 2006 coup a number most NGOs accepted the coup and took part in the junta’s sham “reform” committees. Some “NGO academics” even sat in the junta’s appointed parliament.
For the last decade Thai NGOs have ceased to be advocates or activists for freedom and democracy and have treated the majority of citizens with contempt. To read more detail about this, go to: “Why have most Thai NGOs sided with the conservative royalists against democracy and the poor” at http://www.scribd.com/doc/221530131/Why-have-most-Thai-NGOs-chosen-to-side-with-the-conservative-royalists-against-democracy-and-the-poor
The true activists for freedom and democracy can be found in the flash mobs and street demonstrations, in the junta’s jails, or among the red shirts. However, the UDD red shirt leadership and the top politicians from Pua Thai Party, including Yingluk, have thrown in the towel. The UDD leaders are calling for calm and they have been trying to demobilise the movement since Yingluk’s election in 2011. Pictures of Yingluk obediently going to report to the junta are in stark contrast with the actions of those who have refused to report to this illegitimate body. Chaturon Chaisang, a former Minister of Education, was arrested at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club and is now facing a military court and two years in jail. Others are trying to cross the border to seek asylum. The UDD leaders could easily have done something like this in an attempt to lead the fight for democracy from abroad or while in hiding. But they have failed. New leadership must now come from grass roots activists.