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BP: Amnesty International on Wednes

Subject: BP: Amnesty International on Wednesday released its annual report 

June 18, 1999 

There's always room to do better

Amnesty International on Wednesday released its annual report covering abuses
in Thailand for the year 1998. As with all other countries of the world, the
organisation managed to cite some examples.

Although Thailand gave refuge to thousands of refugees from neighbouring
Cambodia and Burma during 1998, thousands more Burmese asylum-seekers were
denied access. Burmese asylum-seekers and refugees also continued to be
arrested for "illegal immigration".

One Karen refugee was beaten to death by security forces. The security forces
ill-treated demonstrators and detainees. Conditions in places of detention
amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Thirteen people were
sentenced to death; one person was executed.

The coalition government of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai remained in power
a severe economic downturn, which necessitated a substantial loan from the
International Monetary Fund. Legislation establishing a National Human Rights
Commission, provided for in the 1997 constitution, had been drafted but not
adopted by the end of the year.

Thailand's report to the UN Human Rights Committee on its implementation of
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was due in January, but
the report had not been submitted by the end of the year.
Throughout the year, asylum-seekers from the Karen, Karenni and Shan ethnic
minorities fled Burma into Thailand.

In March and April, the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Organisation, an armed
minority group allied to the Burmese army, attacked three Karen refugee camps
in Tak province, killing five people and leaving thousands homeless.

The Ninth Infantry Division of the First Army continued to prevent
thousands of
Karen asylum-seekers from entering Thailand, who remained at risk of human
rights violations in Burma.

Some 3,000 Karen asylum-seekers at Htee Wah Do village in Burma were still
denied permission to cross the border into Thailand after almost two years.

The government permitted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) to establish a permanent presence on the Thai-Burma border to monitor
more than 100,000 refugees on the Thai side. By the end of the year the
government had agreed to five areas of work for UNHCR: 
to witness the process of refugee admission; 
to assist the authorities in registration; 
to assist and advise the authorities on camp relocation; and 
to assist refugees on their safe return.

Immigration officials and police continued to arrest asylum-seekers and
refugees from Burma and other countries for"illegal immigration". Detained
asylum-seekers were not given an opportunity to challenge the legality of
detention as required by international standards.

In January, nine Burmese asylum-seekers, all members of groups opposed to the
Rangoon government, were arrested in Sangkhla Buri, Kanchanaburi province, and
detained for two weeks before being taken to the Burma side of the border.

In August, 30 Burmese refugees and asylum-seekers were arrested during a
prolonged peaceful protest in front of the Burmese embassy in the capital
Bangkok, held in the immigration detention centre for two weeks, and
transferred to the Special Detention Centre at Bang Khen Police Academy, where
they were believed to be still detained without trial at the end of the year.

Throughout the year, immigration officials and police arrested and sent to the
border tens of thousands of Burmese migrant workers, some of whom were
asylum-seekers. There continued to be no legal mechanism in Thailand for
seeking asylum.

Some asylum-seekers were ill-treated.

In January, around 20 Karen refugees, including two women aged over 65, were
reportedly beaten and kicked by soldiers when they returned to Mae La camp,
province, after foraging for food.

In March, Nyan Lin, a Karen refugee, was beaten to death by soldiers
because he
returned to his camp after curfew. No investigation was known to have taken
place, although his widow received financial compensation from the security

The security forces also ill-treated demonstrators and detainees.
In January, police beat and kicked demonstrators who had given themselves up
during a violent workers' demonstration in Samut Prakan province.
Also in January, three Muslims belonging to the Pattani United Liberation
Organisation (Pulo), an armed ethnic Malay separatist group in southern
Thailand, were reportedly severely beaten while handcuffed and bound by
security forces during 10 days of interrogation after their arrest. They were
still detained and their trial on charges of treason, murder and possession of
weapons was continuing at the end of the year.

The case brought by the families of six suspected drug traffickers shot
dead by
police in November 1996 was brought to Suphan Buri court in October and was
still being heard at the end of the year.

Conditions in police lock-ups, immigration detention centres and prisons
amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Prisoners were shackled continuously for months at a time, held in solitary
confinement for extended periods, or held in extremely overcrowded conditions.

Adequate medical care, sanitation, food and water were lacking in many places
of detention.

In the Special Detention Centre, where people convicted of drugs offences were
imprisoned, there was severe overcrowding and routine beatings. In Bang Kwang
prison, prisoners were kept continuously for months in shackles weighing
between seven and 15 kg welded to the ankles. Prisoners in Chon Buri prison
also were kept in heavy shackles for prolonged periods and severely beaten.

In October, Supoj Pengklai, a policeman who had been convicted of murder in
1996, was executed by firing squad. Thirteen people were sentenced to death
rape, rape and murder, and amphetamine trafficking. At least 52 others were
believed to be under sentence of death at the end of the year.
In January and February, Amnesty International delegates visited Thailand to
research its human rights concerns and hold discussions with government

Throughout the year, Amnesty International appealed to the government not to
forcibly return asylum-seekers to Burma. In November, the organisation
condemned the execution of Supoj Pengklai and urged the authorities not to
carry out any further executions.

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Last Modified: Fri, Jun 18, 1999
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