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Akha Analysis:U.S.-Thai Relations Override Human Rights Abuses

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  • Matthew McDaniel
    Dear Friends: A recent letter from the Thai Embassy in the United States states clearly that killings in Thailand were drug related more than likely and that
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2003
      Dear Friends:
      A recent letter from the Thai Embassy in the United States  states clearly that killings in Thailand were drug related more than likely and that surely the Thai government had nothing to do with these killings.  Naturally we intend to prove differently. May Thailand, may the Thai Government, be caught in its own lie.
      Matthew McDaniel
      U.S.-Thai Relations Override Human Rights Abuses

      by Paul Hunt

      30th June 2003

                Thailand�s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
      met with President George W. Bush at the White House
      on 10th June. Their joint statement issued on 11th
      June said, �Regarding recent press allegations that
      Thai security services carried out extrajudicial
      killings during a counternarcotics campaign in
      Thailand, Prime Minister Thaksin stated unequivocally
      that the Thai Government does not tolerate
      extrajudicial killings and assured President Bush that
      all allegations regarding killings are being
      investigated thoroughly.�

                In a 9th June letter to President Bush,
      Human Rights Watch wrote that �[s]hould the human
      rights violations continue and no independent and
      credible investigations are conducted into these
      killings, the United States should make it clear that
      it will have a significant impact on U.S.-Thai
      relations, including in the area of counternarcotics,
      and call into question the leadership role Thailand
      has assumed in the region.�

      Blood on the Track

                Three Akha men from the same small village
      of Joh Hoh Akha near Phrao in Chiangmai Province were
      shot dead this month. On 8th June, Ah Yeh Mah Yurh, a
      43-year-old Akha man, was shot once in the chest by a
      sniper who fired through a barely open door. He was
      killed while sitting in the house with friends. He
      leaves a wife and 4 children.

                Police arrested Leeh Muuh Burh Chay.
      However, his parents and other villagers say he was
      with friends in a neighbour�s house at the time of the
      incident. On 18th June the police left notices with
      the wives of Loh Pah Ah Sauh, a 35-year-old Akha man,
      and Leeh Huuh Burh Chay, the 44-year-old brother of
      the arrested man, calling for them to go to Phrao
      police station at 8 a.m. on 20th June.

                A report filed later that day by an
      on-the-scene investigator says, �So, the two of them
      on one motorcycle are halfway there, and are shot many
      times in the chest and head. Trying to turn around to
      save their lives, others come out from the fields, and
      shoot more, way way extra until they are lying there
      in the field, dead. We went to this place, and there
      were blood stains on the road and field.�

                Loh Pah Ah Sauh was shot once in the face,
      and two or more times in the chest. He leaves a wife
      and children, including one handicapped daughter.

                Leeh Huuh Burh Chay was shot in the hand, in
      the chest five times, and through the nose with a very
      messy exit wound in the back of his skull near his
      neck. He leaves a wife and two sons. Meanwhile, his
      brother is in prison for the same killing on 8th June
      for which he was presumably being called to the Phrao
      police station about!

                A report made by another investigator later
      on 20th June says, �We learned the cops had called the
      two men to come to the station that morning for some
      reason they wouldn�t clarify. This is when they had
      been attacked. The cops couldn�t say who might have
      done it. They wondered why we would think it was the
      police and wanted to know if we were with an NGO. One
      young police officer laughed and smirked throughout
      the meeting. The chief we were meeting was aloof, but
      was clearly ill, probably with AIDS, from the look of
      it. The chief knew two men had been murdered but
      didn�t seem to know much real information. He was very
      out-of-it. The young officer seemed to know what was
      going on but didn�t want to talk. On our way out of
      the police complex we quickly photographed a truck
      without any plates in the lot that was muddied from a
      red road like the one the murders took place on.�

                The first investigator says, �We went on to
      the police station at Phrao. I speak Thai, so found it
      my duty to use it well. We are taken to see the
      �boss�, who with the help of others are quickly
      pushing away the beer bottles and cigarettes and other
      toys off his outside �desk� where we sit down to speak
      with him. Initially it is just him, intoxicated and
      old, who pretends not to know what I am talking about,
      asking for answers about why they received the papers
      two days ago, and why they were murdered. Another
      policeman, now both of them smugly smoking cigarettes,
      says, �Well, how do you know it was the police?� gives
      an awful half-grin, and takes a drag on his cigarette.
      All they kept saying was I don�t know, it has nothing
      to do with this police station, we have no idea who or
      why papers were sent to those two individuals. There
      was nothing else to do there, so we left. Beyond
      appalling, this picture.�

                Following Thaksin�s three-month, anti-drugs
      campaign, which supposedly ended on 30th April with a
      total of  2,274 deaths reported by the police, the
      killings and human rights violations have continued
      unabated, unabashed, and unaccounted for!

      Fabrications in High Places

                U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter
      Rodman, in his 26th June testimony to the Subcommittee
      on Asia and the Pacific House International Relations
      Committee Hearing,  stated: �Thailand�s willingness to
      afford us unimpeded access to valuable facilities
      enables us to maintain a high level of readiness in
      the region. Cobra Gold, the centrepiece of the
      U.S.-Thai annual training and exercise schedule of
      over 40 activities, is now focused on peace
      enforcement and peacekeeping. Our training
      relationship has expanded over the last decade to
      include cooperation also on counter-drug matters,
      disaster response, humanitarian assistance, demining
      and now counter-terrorism.�

              According to the Bush-Thaksin joint statement
      of 11th June, �...the President informed the Prime
      Minister that the United States is actively
      considering Thailand�s designation as a Major Non NATO
      Ally (MNNA).� It later continues, �The two leaders
      recognized  the long, successful history of
      cooperation between the United States and Thailand on
      law enforcement and counternarcotics. President Bush
      appreciated Thailand�s leadership in hosting one of
      the largest and most successful U.S. Drug Enforcement
      Administration (DEA) operations in the world as well
      as the U.S.-Thai International Law Enforcement Academy

                It is very difficult, if not impossible, to
      square these statements with actual realities on the
      ground in Thailand. Thaksin has admitted that 35 of
      the killings reported during the three-month crackdown
      were deemed to be �extrajudicial� killings. Yet
      independent investigations into these killings leave
      very much to be desired, especially due to the
      �climate of fear� amongst human rights workers in
      Thailand, as reported by U.N. special envoy on human
      rights, Hina Jilani, when she wrapped up her ten-day
      visit to the kingdom on 28th May.

                The �Leahy Law� on human rights, enacted in
      the U.S. in 1997 and since expanded, prohibits U.S.
      funding and training of any unit of the security
      forces of a foreign country if there is credible
      evidence that the unit has committed human rights
      violations, unless all necessary corrective steps have
      been taken.

                Recent statements by U.S. officials show
      little or no concern about investigations into these
      extrajudicial killings, which still continue, or about
      the enforcing the �Leahy Law�. This stands in stark
      contrast to the case of  approximately 2,000 people
      killed in Kosovo by Milosovic�s forces before the U.S.
      and Britain began bombing Yugoslavia in March 1999 out
      of �humanitarian� concerns!

      Mark of Cain�s Generation

                The U.S. tries to stand on a lofty
      humanitarian pulpit over such countries as Yugoslavia,
      Iran and Iraq. However, it declines to take up human
      rights issues in its relations with Turkey, Indonesia,
      Israel, and other allies known to be committing human
      rights atrocities. Of course, the native populations
      of Vietnam, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the indigenous
      peoples of America itself know how much U.S. policies
      are concerned with the basic human rights to life and

                The U.S., following the British empirical
      experiment, is now going global with its own brand of
      self-interest. Human rights are of no concern to
      empires, while power projection most certainly is. As
      President Bush says, �You are either for us, or
      against us.� Otherwise you are an irrelevance!

                Thaksin�s Thailand is open for business as
      usual in this latest global empirical experiment. On
      10th June, the same day he met Bush in the White
      House, the Nation newspaper back home reported that
      Thaksin was keen to lease land in Thailand for a new
      U.S. military base. He was taking a  commercial
      approach as a way to generate cash. Previous U.S.
      bases in Thailand had been closed soon after the
      Vietnam War ended in 1975.

                On 12th June, Thailand�s Crown Prince Maha
      Vajiralongkorn was escorted by Deputy Secretary of
      Defense Paul Wolfowitz through an honor cordon into
      the Pentagon.

                Peter Rodman had this to say in his 26th
      June testimony: �Existing and new U.S. bases overseas
      will be evaluated as combined and/or joint facilities,
      given the new premium on combined and joint
      operations. Overeas stationed forces should be located
      on reliable, well-protected territory.�

                The only human rights protections which
      figure in U.S. military base plans are those of its
      own people and their cooperative buddies. The large
      and growing U.S. military base on the island of Diego
      Garcia in the Indian Ocean was built in the 1970s
      after the forced and illegal removal of the entire
      native population. The lease was stitched up in
      violation of international laws as well as U.N. human
      rights provisions by the British in a military deal
      with the U.S. The 2,000 native Chagos islanders were
      left destitute, most of them on the island of
      Mauritius. Although the islanders won their London
      High Court case to return to their native Diego Garcia
      and neighbouring islands in November 2000, the U.S.
      still blocks their right to return. B52 and B2 Stealth
      bombers use the base for operations in Iraq,
      Afghanistan and elsewhere.

                Human rights atrocities, forced removals and
      torture continue to be perpetrated with impunity
      against hilltribe ethnic minorities by state security
      forces in northern Thailand. On 20th June, two Akha
      men were stopped at the Mooh Gow Lang Army checkpoint
      in Ampur Mae Faluang . They were taken to Huuh Maw
      Army Base in Haen Taek, the same base where witnesses
      say they saw two Lahu men murdered last year. The army
      said they must have been doing some drug business, but
      they could find no drugs. They tied up and beat the
      two men repeatedly with gun butts, boots and sticks
      for six days, telling them them they would kill them.
      They were also lifted off the ground with a rope
      around their necks.

                The U.S. is effectively saying that this
      kind of abuse of human rights is O.K. because Thailand
      is a buddy in the wars on drugs and terrorism! Thaksin
      is keen to offer the U.S. a lease for a military base.
      Therefore Bush is willing to overlook such messy
      details as human rights and the �Leahy Law�!

                Should U.S. citizens not exercise more
      concern over how their laws are implimented,  and how
      their tax dollars are spent? Is U.S. policy not
      condoning the very kind of terrorism it claims to be
      waging war against? Are the U.S. and its allies not
      summoning up the  regeneration of Cain�s fallen
      countenance and wrath? This generation is in our hands
      my dear friends!


      Paul Hunt is a freelance journalist. He worked closely
      with Matthew McDaniel of the Akha Heritage Foundation
      in writing this article. For more details of the
      events on the ground reported here, including graphic
      photographs, please see:  www.akha.org

      The Akha Heritage Foundation.
      http://www.akha.org Akha Heritage Site.
      Donate: http://www.akha.org/donate/donate.htm
      PO Box 6073 Salem, OR. 97304 USA.

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