Thais bar Amnesty talk on torture
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. –