Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

Human Rights NGO continues campaign against Sathirathai

August 24, 2006

Last week, we pointed out an open letter sent by the Asian Human Rights Commission to the Foreign Minister of Argentina about Surakiart Sathirathai. The Bangkok Post has reported on the meeting and its follow up:

Argentina understands Thailand’s position on human rights and has no problem with Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai becoming UN secretary-general, said an aide for Mr Surakiart. Sorajak Kasemsuwan said yesterday that Mr Surakiart had met with Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, who, he said, had expressed understanding for the human rights situation in Thailand.

We wonder if the Argentinian Foreign Ministry has a statement?

In response to this news story, AHRC issued a statement. Excerpts:

The reason is that like Thailand, Argentina has had a long and terrible history of forced disappearances, killing, torture and other gross abuses of human rights, of which the foreign minister was himself a victim. But unlike Thailand, Argentina has passed through the period of worst abuses and is now working to give redress to the victims and belatedly prosecute alleged perpetrators. While there is still much for the country to do, when compared to anywhere in Asia it is far advanced in addressing and accounting for human rights violations.

Human rights begin at home. Anybody holding a high government office that has done nothing to address rampant injustices and abuses in his own country cannot seriously be expected to do the same for anyone else. Anybody holding a high government office who responds to legitimate and studied criticism with evasion and denial cannot seriously be expected to consider and address the causes for that criticism. The Asian Human Rights Commission is sad to say that the deputy prime minister of Thailand has still done nothing to answer the question, “What are your qualifications to be UN secretary general?”

Human Rights dogs Sathirathai in Latin America

August 15, 2006

This week, Sathirathai goes to Argentina and Peru. The same human rights group that has attacked Sathirathai for his human rights record (here, here, and here) is now publicly asking the Foreign Minister of Argentina to raise this issue:

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) called on the Argentine Foreign Minister, Jorge Taiana, to raise the issue following the South American nation’s jailing this month of police officers for forced disappearances there.

In an open letter to Taiana, AHRC urged the Argentine government to seek commitments from Surakiart – who is visiting the country to seek support for his bid to become United Nations secretary-general – that Thailand would end abductions and killings by police and soldiers, particularly in the restive southern border provinces.

In addition to the campaign aspect of this, we do believe that this is the first time that an NGO has openly campaigned against a candidate for UNSG. This marks an important change in UN politics. As a sidenote, we wonder if other NGOs and NGO groups (like UNSGSelection.org) will take such a high profile on other issues.

Thai editorial: Thaksin’s Myanmar trip “final nail in Surakiart’s coffin”

August 5, 2006

The Nation, an online Thai news source, editorializes on Thaksin’s trip to Myanmar:

Just last week, Deputy PM Surakiart Sathirathai, the Thai candidate for UN secretary-general, was telling the world how he would push for Suu Kyi’s release and political reforms in that oppressed nation were he elected. If it served no other purpose, Thaksin’s visit at least put the final nail in Surakiart’s coffin as far as his bid for the UN’s top job is concerned.

We have written on the Myanmar situation here and here. Ever since the straw poll, the English-language Thai press has been very harsh on Thaksin.

Sathirathai, Myanmar, and Human Rights

August 4, 2006

In our last post, we pointed out that the Malaysian Press had suggested that Myanmar/Burma ASEAN relations were becoming a problem for Surakiart Sathirathai.

So, Sathirathai has announced that he will push for democracy in Myanmar if elected.  

“We know it is important that democracy must take place in Myanmar (Burma) as soon as possible and Aung San Suu Kyi should be released as soon as possible,” he added.

Of course, this comes in the context of concrete attacks by AHRC — who had previously attacked Sathirathai for his record on human rights inside Thailand –, this time on Myanmar:

Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Friday said Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, Thailand’s candidate to be the next United Nations secretary general, could not be expected to do anything towards democracy or human rights in Burma.

In a statement issued Friday, the regional rights group said that Surakiart “had done nothing to advance political and social change in Burma, either as deputy prime minister or foreign minister”.

It described the Thai government’s relations with Burma as  “negligent” and business-oriented, the AHRC said that although Surakiart had had five years in which influence Burma’s military regime, he had “never taken advantage” of his position.

Indeed, in a trip to Myanmar last week, Thai PM Thaksin reported that he asked for her release. Of course, the purpose of his trip has been disputed. Thaksin said he went on ASEAN’s behalf. Stratfor says it was about illegal immigration. A number of Thai sources think that Thaksin went for his own personal business reasons (here, here, and here)

Cuba endorses Shashi

July 29, 2006

This can’t help with the US… From the Indian Financial  Express:

Cuba has indicated its support to the candidature of Shashi Tharoor, India’s candidate for the post of UN Secretary General, and affirmed backing to New Delhi’s bid for membership of the expanded Security Council.

With the clear support of Belarus and Cuba, Shashi is not running for the Human Rights vote….

This is also important because Cuba is the next President of NAM. But, especially if Bone is right that the US vetoed everyone in the first round, this could increase the difficulty for US support. And Belarus for European support.

On the human rights issue, our leading candidates seem like pigs in the mud…

Update on Sathirathai and Human Rights

July 29, 2006

GPF has a copy of the letter written by the Asian Human Rights Commission. Some excerpts. It is quite vicious, and if fully documentable, ought to be fatal to Sathirathai:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has since 2004 studied your candidacy to become the next Secretary-General of the United Nations with interest. To be honest, we are a bit perplexed. Try as we might, we have failed to identify the qualifications upon which you could be elected to the job.

As a Harvard law postgraduate we would have thought that you would understand how important it is to maintain principles for the rule of law and human rights in Thailand, and how these are supported by the international system, specifically the United Nations. However, looking at the record of your government since you served as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2001 to 2005 and after that as Deputy Prime Minister (with special responsibility for foreign affairs), it is hard to find any evidence of this.

1. FAILED to ratify a key UN treaty against torture: The AHRC has been among other concerned groups and individuals who for some years have been saying that if Thailand’s human rights record is to improve it must join the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In fact, the ministry that you headed has the primary responsibility for this. But still, inexplicably, Thailand has not signed.

This point is particularly delicious in light of the Human Rights Committee’s report on the US. But we digress.

2. FAILED to implement any recommendations of a key UN body: The AHRC is not aware of any attempt to implement any of the key recommendations that the UN Human Rights Committee made to you in 2005 after your representatives in Geneva tried unsuccessfully to keep all kinds of gross abuses under the carpet.

3. FAILED to cooperate with UN special procedures: We are not aware of a single case of alleged torture, forced disappearance, extrajudicial killing or other gross abuse in Thailand before the UN working groups or special rapporteurs that your government has properly addressed. Furthermore, Thailand has deliberately snubbed the repeated requests of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions to visit the country, and has also failed to extend standing invitations to UN experts interested to do the same, for no known reason.

In short, we cannot understand how you can contemplate becoming UN Secretary General from a position as Deputy Prime Minister in a government that refuses to join key UN international treaties, fails to consider or implement the sound recommendations of UN international treaty bodies and keeps UN experts at a distance.

We also cannot understand how you can contemplate becoming UN Secretary General from a position as Deputy Prime Minister in a government that pursues a policy of extrajudicial killings and disappearances against parts of its own population, tacitly endorses the use of torture by its police, has been recognised globally as an enemy of free speech, fails to protect even its own officially-appointed human rights commissioners–let alone the thousands of environmentalists, community leaders, journalists and others with lives at risk in Thailand–and has caused untold damage to the rule of law.

Former Thai FM Attacks Sathirathai

July 28, 2006

Former Thai FM Surin Pitsuwan is attacking Sathirathai for silence on the Israeli killing of UN Peacekeepers:

“When the whole world is up in arms about the deaths of four UN observers in Khiyam, Lebanon, how can Thailand, an aspirant for UN leadership, be so conspicuously silent?” said Surin.

Surin said: “The entire world is up in arms about the issue, strikฌing at the heart of the UN’s peaceฌkeeping role, and we are keeping mum on the case. How could we, in good conscience, claim that we have the interests of the internaฌtional community at heart?”

“The Thaksin government is still at a loss … not for words, but of a sense of international responsibility.

Note that this is not the first time that Sathirathai (or his government or party) has been attacked by his former colleagues. They are suing a former Thai ambassador to the UN for calling Sathirathai unqualified. And recently, there was a criticism of Sathirathai, in particular, for his human rights record.

Human Rights group attacks Sathirathai

July 21, 2006

Will human rights become an issue again? According to one Thai news source, it might for Sathirathai. Some excerpts:

The Thai government is “immoral and dishonest” for promoting Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai as the next UN secretary-general while continuing to enforce emergency rule across the Muslim South, a leading human rights group said.

Surakiart’s bid “should be rejected by all countries with a genuine concern for human rights,” AHRC said in a statement.

Bill Fernandez, AHRC’s executive director, said it was “offensive” to promote a man who held key positions during a time when his government “consistently flouted international law and snubbed the best efforts of UN officials to improve human rights in its country.”

This is not the first time that Sathirathai has been attacked within his own country. His government is currently suing a former Ambassador to the UN for calling Sathirathai unqualified. There have been similar accusations about both Ban Ki-moon and the countries that support him. Our summary is here.

However, the good news for Sathirathai is that he has Pakistan’s endorsement!

Human Rights Council opens today

June 19, 2006

Today, the new Human Rights Council begins operation in Geneva. The new HRC has been held up as an example of reform. However, Human Rights Watch sent a warning on Friday demanding "No Business as Usual".

The new HRC has been held up as an example of reform, and, indeed, there have been a number of important improvements.

There have already been some changes. South Korean candidate Ban Ki-moon has said that North Korea needs to begin to address its human rights record. As the article points out:

The remarks by Ban, who is eyeing the top UN post, represent a departure for South Korea by singling out the North without lumping it with other offenders like Burma. South Korea has been criticized for its passivity over human rights abuses in the Stalinist country on the international stage.

"The government has made progress in its position on the issue by taking issue with North Korea’s human rights record at a global event,” a government official said. South Korea has been absent or abstained since 2003 whenever the UN adopted resolutions on North Korea’s human rights violations.

As previous posts have pointed out (here, here, and here), we are concerned about North Korea and Human rights. If a resolution comes up on Uzbekistan or Egypt, who have also endorsed Ban Ki-moon, will he support challenging their records?

Sri Lanka, India, and South Korea are on the Council. It will be interesting to see how these countries vote over the next several months.

Sathirathai’s party pushes defamation lawsuits against opposition

April 14, 2006

The UN Secretary General candidacy of Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakaiart Sathirathai has been stalled due to political problems in his home country. Another one of the problems is that former Thai representative to the UN, Asda Jayanama, has declared his candidacy unsuitable.

So what do they do? They file a defamation lawsuit:

Mr Wichit said the team is reviewing the speech of Asda Jayanama, former permanent Thai representative to the United Nations, against caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai during an anti-Thaksin protest. He said Mr Asda's remarks were defamatory.

During the rally on Ratchadamnoen avenue, Mr Asda questioned Mr Surakiart's ability to compete for the UN secretary-general post.

As the rest of this article indicates, his party is pursuing similar suits against critics of other government officials.