JAKARTA – The international community must take a stand in support of democracy in Thailand and against the actions of coup leader and Thai Prime Minister, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today.
As Prayuth prepares to address the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow, APHR called on governments around the world to press for an immediate halt to human rights violations and a return to democratic civilian rule in Thailand.
“General Prayuth has increasingly demonstrated a flagrant disrespect for human rights, democratic norms, and Thailand’s international legal obligations,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of parliament in Malaysia. “He should be greeted at the UN appropriately.”
Despite eloquent assurances to the international community, Thailand’s military rulers appear to have little intention to return the country to democratic civilian rule anytime soon, APHR said. The military-appointed legislature’s recent rejection of its own draft constitution, further delaying the timeline for elections, is the most recent evidence of this fact.
“Representatives of Thailand’s junta have been allowed to strut around the international arena as if they are the legitimate representatives of their people. A clear message must be sent to Prayuth and his ilk that prolonged military rule will not be tolerated,” Santiago added.
APHR warned that the international community’s failure to take serious measures to push for a return to democracy in Thailand is sending a dangerous signal to the rest of the region.
A delegation of MPs from Southeast Asia recently met with U.S. officials in Washington, DC, where they called on the U.S. government to halt its Cobra Gold military exercise, held annually in Thailand, until a democratic government is returned.
“Continued military-to-military cooperation sends the wrong message to the Thai junta, which has failed to heed calls from the international community to end its human rights violations,” Santiago said.
Since seizing power in a coup in May 2014, the Thai military has used a range of authoritarian measures to instill a climate of fear across the country, aiming to silence all dissent and close down political debate. The junta has banned public assemblies, arbitrarily detained hundreds of alleged dissidents, used military courts to lock up opposition members, and instituted severe media censorship.
Thailand’s democracy has been under threat for the past decade, as the country has struggled to grapple with a bitter political divide. Nevertheless, the future of democracy in Thailand today is perhaps at its grimmest point in several decades, APHR warned, calling for a concerted response from world leaders.