The National Human Rights Commission is not known for protecting human rights. For the past few years, despite the efforts of a couple of commissioners who tried to do their job, the NHRC has been a sinecure for junta buddies and has ignored the military dictatorship’s abuses.
That’s why it is surprising to see a newspaper report where the NHRC actually seems interested in human rights abuses.
The report states that the NHRC has warned local opponents of a “new potash mine in Sakon Nakhon’s Wanon Niwat District” that they are “being monitored by the police and military…”.
We guess that the locals already know this, but the fact that the NHRC confirms it is worthy of note for this moribund clique.
The NHRC notes that state officials and business people are teaming up against locals “throughout the region, and urged the government to change their stance on local activism and assure public participation for the sustainable development of the region.”
There’s little chance of that under the junta but it is worth saying it out loud.
The “NHRC and Amnesty International Thailand on Wednesday led a media tour of the potash exploration site in Wanon Niwat District, as they said it was a vivid example of the freedom of expression and communal rights violations in North Eastern Region.” Just in this one district, according to “Sakkaphon Chaisaengrat, a lawyer for local people,… 120,000 rai of land … is currently granted to China Ming Ta Potash Corporation to survey for the possibility of opening a new potash mine in the area.” Locals know almost nothing of the firms operations.
It turns out that this is an official Chinese enterprise: “We are the representative of China’s Mineral Resources Department, so the people can trust our mining standards,” said a company representative. Mining is polluting and dangerous in China and has a poor reputation in dealing with locals, but is expert in teaming up with local officials to get its way.
The report continues:
He said that activism during the administration of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was not easy, as the people in the North Eastern Region were usually seen by authorities as the main supporters of the former government Pheu Thai Party. Activism in the region is often treated by officers with great concern.
He said local authorities are friends of the investors, so they usually protect the interest of the company rather than the people’s rights, which has caused many lawsuits against local activists.
There are at least two defamation and Computer Crime Act violation cases against local people and another case of violation of the Public Assembly Act. Local resident Satanont Chuenta said that the company has already violated people’s rights by intruding into the private land to make a potash survey without the landowner’s consent and protesters were also terrified by the military personnel.
Both officials and the company threaten anyone they think may be activists or threats to their “work.” The lawyer stated: “The military officers often visit our communities and their presence makes the people feel insecure and makes them distrust the authorities.”
NHRC commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit, one of the few serious commissioners, “said that the agency has received many complaints on the issues and the NHRC has already made recommendations to authorities to improve the situation.” No one is interested it seems. She makes the mistake of thinking that it “is the government’s duty to protect the people’s rights and ensure that they can participate in managing local resources.” The military dictatorship has no such role. It sees its job as making loot for its tycoons and allowing its minions to get on the gravy train.
Angkana said that NHRC “statistics showed complaints about rights violations in the justice system were highest in the North Eastern Region, as 26 per cent of all complaints in this region were about unfair treatment by officers, planting false allegations, or injustice in the justice system.”
The military junta is defined by such acts.