Thais bar Amnesty talk on tor­ture

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THAI au­thor­i­ties blocked an Amnesty In­ter­na­tional news con­fer­ence on tor­ture in the king­dom yes­ter­day, the watch­dog said, the lat­est move to si­lence rights groups in the armyrun coun­try.

Two for­eign Amnesty In­ter­na­tional staff were to speak at the Bangkok launch of a re­port de­tail­ing 74 cases of al­leged tor­ture at the hands of Thai soldiers and po­lice.

But the ad­vo­cacy group was told that speak­ing at the event would be cause for le­gal ac­tion, Amnesty spokesper­son Omar Waraich told AFP.

“The au­thor­i­ties said to us that ... if any rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Amnesty In­ter­na­tional spoke at the event they would be in vi­o­la­tion of Thai­land’s labour laws,” he said.

“They did not spec­ify fur­ther,” he said, adding that both speak­ers were in Thai­land on busi­ness visas.

The Thai gov­ern­ment did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment on the mat­ter.

The re­port ac­cused the junta gov­ern­ment of al­low­ing a “cul­ture of tor­ture” to flour­ish since its 2014 power grab. It de­scribed a range of abuse suf­fered by de­tainees, in­clud­ing beat­ings, suf­fo­ca­tion by plas­tic bags, stran­gling, wa­ter­board­ing and elec­tric shocks to the gen­i­tals.

The United Na­tions de­scribed the re­port as “sub­stan­tive” and hit out at the Thai gov­ern­ment for block­ing the event.

“This in­ci­dent is an­other strik­ing il­lus­tra­tion of a new pat­tern of ha­rass­ment of hu­man rights de­fend­ers doc­u­ment­ing tor­ture in Thai­land,” said Lau­rent Meil­lan, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the UN’s hu­man rights of­fice in South­east Asia, who was also sched­uled to speak at the event.

The junta has se­verely curbed free speech since com­ing to power by out­law­ing all po­lit­i­cal events, in­tim­i­dat­ing the press and de­tain­ing scores of crit­ics of the regime.

Po­lice and soldiers have been dis­patched to break up dozens of ral­lies and block nu­mer­ous events cov­er­ing rights abuses and other po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive top­ics.

Three rights ac­tivists be­hind a land­mark re­port on tor­ture in Thai­land’s in­sur­gency-hit south are now fac­ing jail time af­ter the mil­i­tary filed defama­tion charges against them ear­lier this year.

“The Thai au­thor­i­ties should be ad­dress­ing tor­ture, not hu­man rights ac­tivists do­ing their le­git­i­mate work,” Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s se­nior global di­rec­tor Mi­nar Pim­ple said in a state­ment. –

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