ASEAN MPs on Chaiyapoom’s case

PPT reproduces in full a statement by the ASEAN members and former members of parliament on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae:

ASEAN MPs concerned about safety of minority rights defenders more than a month after killing of activist in Thailand

JAKARTA, 28 April 2017 – Regional parliamentarians expressed concerns today over the lack of adequate investigation to date into the shooting death last month of indigenous Lahu activist Chaiyaphum Pasae in northern Thailand, as well as reported threats against other activists and local community members in the area.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) called on the Thai military to fully comply with the investigation and release key evidence related to the incident, and urged authorities to fully investigate all reported threats in order to ensure that human rights and the rule of law are respected. The collective of regional lawmakers said the case highlighted the dangers faced by minority rights activists in Thailand, which are characteristic of similar threats around the region.

“These latest allegations, and the lack of satisfactory investigations, have done nothing to address growing concerns over the human rights situation in Thailand,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament.

“This isn’t the first time Thai authorities have been accused of committing extrajudicial killings and certainly not the first time that they’ve failed to provide adequate answers as to what really happened. This raises serious concerns about the safety of activists who are putting their lives on the line to defend the rights of their communities.”

Ethnic Lahu activist, 17-year-old Chaiyaphum Pasae, was killed by security forces during an alleged anti-drug operation in Chiang Mai province on 17 March. Chaiyaphum was a strong advocate for the rights of his community and other ethnic minorities in northern Thailand, and had been actively involved in campaigns against drug use.

Authorities have claimed that some 2,800 methamphetamine tablets were found in Chaiyaphum’s car and that he was shot in “self-defense” after attempting to run away from soldiers. However, witnesses present at the scene told reporters that he was unarmed and that he was beaten by soldiers before being shot. One witness has already fled the country due to fears for his safety, APHR has learned.

Although the police opened an investigation shortly after Chaiyaphum’s death, there are indications that the military is refusing to cooperate, including by refusing to make public CCTV footage of the incident. Photographic evidence seen by APHR raises further questions regarding the official military account of events – questions which could be answered by the release of the CCTV footage and of the autopsy results.

APHR called on military authorities to release the CCTV footage to the public, and also urged the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) to exercise its mandate and demand that, at a minimum, the footage be released to the NHRCT to aid in its own investigation.

“We can’t be sure if the police are failing to fully investigate the incident or if other authorities, namely the military, are blocking the investigation or not fully complying with requests. Either way, this is beginning to feel like so many other cases in the region where investigations have stalled due to inaction and no one is ever really held accountable and justice never served,” Santiago said.

“In addition to conducting their own independent investigation into the case, the NHRCT should ensure that no one in Thailand is above the law and that the incident itself, as well as threats and intimidation against witnesses and other activists, are fully investigated by the competent authorities. The military’s cooperation in this investigation shouldn’t be up for debate.”

Parliamentarians also raised concerns about the safety of other community members following reported death threats received by Maitree Chamroensuksakul, another Lahu activist who worked closely with Chaiyaphum. Maitree, who has also been outspoken about the abuses faced by his community, was recently told by local authorities to cease speaking out and recently found a bullet left on the doorstep of his house – a clear threat on his life. The threats against him follow a pattern of similar intimidation of other activists and community members in the area.

“It is imperative that the Thai authorities put in place the necessary measures to ensure the safety of Mr. Maitree and all witnesses in this case, in addition to fully investigating all reported threats against them,” said APHR Board Member Walden Bello, a former Philippine Congressman.

The cases highlight a dangerous trend in Thailand, where human rights defenders are increasingly at risk, APHR said. Parliamentarians called on the diplomatic community and the National Human Rights Commission to use all available means to ensure that the Thai authorities investigate these cases, punish the perpetrators, and protect – not threaten – activists and local communities.

“Mr. Chaiyaphum’s killing has come at a time when fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of expression, are under severe threat in Thailand. Fully investigating his death would send a clear message that the Thai authorities are finally willing to abide by their international human rights obligations, and that his case will not become just one more entry into a long list of cases of impunity for extrajudicial killings,” Bello said.

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