GENEVA – Thailand had its rights record reviewed by the U.N. Human Rights Council on 11 May as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), where Thailand researcher for Human Rights Watch Sunai Phasuk predicted would be a â€œmoment of shame for the Thai government.â€
The UPR is a review of the human rights records of all 193 United Nations member states. For Thailand, the UPR comes at a time just before Thailand’s military government plans to put out a widely criticised military-written constitution to the public in August.
U.N. members have noted numerous Thai laws in place for the purpose of silencing critics of the junta. In the past year, the junta has jailed such critics and has severely limited freedom of speech and content broadcast by the media.
Controversial Thai laws that U.N. members have pushed for the military to review include a royal defamation law, where if found guilty of insulting the monarchy, an individual can face up to fifteen years in jail. The law has been used to charge activists using Facebook.
The United States called for allowing â€œThai people to fully participate in the political process.â€
Belgium, asked when Thailand will stop trying civilians in military tribunals. Norway recommend that Thailand abolish its controversial lese majeste law.
The use of military courts to try civilians, arbitrary detentions without charge masked as â€œattitude adjustment,â€ absolute power wielded by junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha and expansion of lese majeste prosecutions were among the key issues highlighted by the U.N. member states.
Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch said he hoped that the review and the Thai governmentâ€™s shame that follows will â€œsend a clear message back to Bangkok that they immediately have to reverse their course.â€
Thai authorities on Tuesday released on bail eight activists arrested in April over Facebook comments critical of the junta and the draft constitution.
Two of the eight activists face separate charges of lese majeste. They were charged on Wednesday over private Facebook messages.
Thailand’s strict royal defamation law article 112 makes it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir to the throne or regent. Those found guilty face prison terms of up to 15 years for each offense.
The restrictions were “meant for those who stir up violence”, a representative of Thailand’s justice ministry said in a live broadcast of the meeting, responding to the concerns raised at the review.
In their closing remarks, Thai officials told the council they expected to adopt some of its recommendations on Friday, when its current session ends. In other words they will do nothing.