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UN Envoy Hina Jilani
United Nations Special Envoy for Human Rights Defenders visited Thailand and offered her report on the country.
United Nations Special Envoy Hina Jilani warned the Thai government that there was "a spirit of fear" among those working to improve the human rights conditions in Thailand.
UN envoy cites climate of fear
May 28, 2003
Government-sponsored harassment and intimidation of human-rights and NGOs has diminished Thailand's reputation and impeded its progress in the areas of democracy and human rights, according to a UN special envoy human rights.
Hina Jilani yesterday wrapped up a 10-day visit to the Kingdom during which she held talks with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other senior cabinet members, as well as human-rights activists.
"I have sensed a level of insecurity among human-rights defenders which ranges from general unease to actual fear," she said.
Jilani also interviewed NGO representatives and travelled to Songkhla Chiang Mai provinces to meet officials, human rights activists, environmental groups and villagers.
She said a "climate of fear" was created by public statements against NGOs made at the "highest level of government", by blatant state attempts to cut off their foreign funding and by the use of the state
security apparatus and judicial process to harass human-rights defenders through false or unjust
Jilani was apparently referring in part to a security advisory from Thaksin that suggested the Foreign
Ministry should try to stop foreign funding of NGOs in Thailand.
"I am deeply concerned about an attempt to interfere with NGO's access to foreign funding. I am told that the Interior Ministry instructed the Foreign Ministry to approach the donors with a request not to fund the NGOs," she said.
"I must remind the government that the foreign funding is from the international co-operation and such a thing can only be seen as an obstruction to human rights."
The UN envoy said Thaksin informed her that these actions were not in line with government policy. She said the situation could seriously affect Thailand's reputation as a democracy and a protector of human rights.
Jilani gave examples of the government's harassment and intimidation of those using their freedom of
expression to protest.
She singled out legal action taken against protestors of the Thai-Malaysia gas pipeline project after the
police last year used force to stop them from demonstrating in Songkhla's Hat Yai district. Protestors and police were injured in the incident.
In Hat Yai, the envoy was told how state security forces used excessive force to stop people using their
freedom of protest.
Jilani said she was also deeply concerned about the intimidation of NGOs and journalists by the
Anti-Money Laundering Office, which was secretly assigned to scrutinise their finances.
She cited a published statement by a Senate Committee charged with investigating the activities of NGOs and human-rights defenders.
In the statement, the committee detailed the money each NGO received from foreign sources. It named
human-rights activists and implied they received foreign money to campaign against the government.
Human-rights activists told the envoy that they were working in an atmosphere of fear, particularly those campaigning against government-supported projects.
Jilani said she was "deeply concerned" about a public statement which linked NGOs to "the mafia" and
described their activities as having "dark influences."
Jilani said she had not looked into the government's three-month war on drugs, in which more than 2,000 people were killed by police, but said it was difficult to give credibility to the government's explanation that police killed those people in self-defence.
She said it did not seem possible that there was no connection between the alleged killings and the
practises of the security forces.
The envoy felt the level of openness and tolerance in Thailand seemed to be diminishing.
"Obviously the message is that the [Kingdom's] reputation is under threat. Nevertheless, I think the
damage is still limited," she said.
Her recommendations and conclusions would be included in a UN report due to be released in the coming months.
There should be immediate measures put in place to ease the climate of fear, Jilani said, adding
improvements were needed to provide better protection for human-rights activists.
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