Annual Report: Thailand 2013

May 29, 2013

Annual Report: Thailand 2013

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In January, the government agreed to provide financial compensation to victims of the 2010 violence. In May, a National Reconciliation Bill that included an amnesty provision for those involved in the 2010 violence led to more protests. The Bill was put on hold in July. After a court found security forces responsible for the May 2010 killing of UDD protester Phan Khamkong, murder charges were lodged against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban in December. They were the first officials to be charged in connection with the 2010 political violence. The trials of 24 UDD protest leaders charged with terrorism also started in December.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression continued to be curtailed, primarily through the lese-majesty law (Article 112 of the Criminal Code) and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, which provide for heavy jail sentences for perceived insults to the monarchy. Efforts to challenge or amend the lese-majesty law in 2012 failed. In October, the Constitutional Court upheld Article 112 as constitutional and in November, Parliament dismissed a bill to amend the law.

  • In May, prisoner of conscience Amphon Tangnoppakul, aged in his sixties and known as “Uncle SMS”, died of cancer while serving a 20-year prison term for lese-majesty. He was arrested in August 2010 and convicted in November 2011 for sending four SMS text messages deemed insulting to the monarchy. The court denied all eight requests for bail despite his poor health.
  • In May, Chiranuch Premchaiporn of the Prachatai online news site was sentenced to one year in prison under the Computer Crimes Act and fined 30,000 baht (US$979), reduced to a suspended sentence of eight months and a fine of 20,000 baht (US$653), for failing to promptly remove 10 comments deemed offensive to the monarchy which were posted by others on the Prachatai website between April and November 2008.
  • Magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk remained in detention throughout the year, facing up to 30 years' imprisonment after being charged under the lese-majesty law in April 2011 for publishing two articles in his magazine, Voice of Taksin. The court repeatedly denied his requests for bail.

Refugees and migrants

Asylum-seekers continued to face the risk of arrest and prolonged detention as well as forced return (refoulement) to countries where they would be at risk of persecution. Following discussions with the Myanmar government, Thailand's National Security Council indicated that the 146,900 Myanmar refugees living in Thailand could return to Myanmar within a year, despite continued instability in Myanmar's ethnic areas and the lack of protections to facilitate a safe, dignified and voluntary return process.

Documented and undocumented migrant workers were threatened with deportation in mid-December for failure to complete a national verification process.

Death penalty

There were no reported executions. Courts continued to hand down death sentences throughout the year. In August, the state commuted the sentences of at least 58 death row prisoners to life imprisonment.