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Coup in Thailand

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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PRESS RELEASE AHRC-PL-086-2006 THAILAND: AHRC marks one week of dictatorship by celebrating people s constitution (Hong Kong, September
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4, 2006

      THAILAND: AHRC marks "one week of dictatorship" by celebrating
      people's constitution

      (Hong Kong, September 26, 2006) The Asian Human Rights Commission
      (AHRC) on Tuesday promoted Thailand's 1997 constitution, one week
      after it was disbanded by the army.

      "We are marking one week of dictatorship in Thailand by remembering
      and celebrating the 1997 constitution," Basil Fernando, executive
      director of the Hong Kong-based regional rights group, said.

      The group posted a banner at the top of its website at
      www.ahrchk.net, which reads: The 1997 Constitution of the Kingdom of
      Thailand--LET IT LIVE.

      The banner, which links to the charter's text, also bears a picture
      of the constitution.

      "We will keep this supreme law on our website as an active reminder
      to the people of Thailand and the world of what this military regime
      has stripped from them," Fernando said.

      "Despite its imperfections, this was the only constitution in the
      history of Thailand that was written with the express purpose of
      securing power for the people, not for the army," he said.

      "For this reason above all others its abolition by the military is an
      affront to the burgeoning spirit of human rights and rule of law in
      Thailand, and indeed this entire region," he added.

      "We are offended that decades of political struggle by people in
      Thailand, which has been an inspiration for others throughout Asia,
      could be undone in a few hours on the whim of an army general,"
      Fernando stressed.

      The 1997 constitution was drafted by an elected assembly, in contrast
      to earlier constitutions, which were drafted by persons appointed by
      military coup groups.

      Some commentators have expressed concerns that the same persons who
      had been used by the military to prepare constitutions after previous
      coups are again being called into service.

      "We have no illusions that the military has taken power in order to
      advance the public interest or democracy," Fernando said.

      "The pursuit of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his
      cronies is just a cover for the army's agenda, as it was in 1991," he
      said, referring to the military coup of that year against the
      corrupted government of Chatichai Choonhavan.

      "It is instructive that so far the junta has followed a very similar
      path to that taken by the regime 15 years ago," Fernando noted.

      "We wonder how much it has learnt from the lessons of that time," he

      In November 1991 there were huge public protests against the army-
      imposed draft charter.

      Although the constitution was passed, in May 1992 it led to the
      downfall of General Suchinda Kraprayoon, who was then serving as
      prime minister, and ultimately to demands for a new supreme law.

      "The junta in 1991 found it much more difficult to get anything done
      than it had anticipated, and we expect that in 2006 the new regime
      will encounter even more obstacles," Fernando said.

      "Thailand is a sophisticated country with a vibrant and thinking
      society that will not sit quietly while the army does as it pleases,"
      he noted.

      "In addition, the presence of the internet, mobile phones and other
      modern communications make the job doubly difficult for this junta
      than it was for its predecessors," Fernando added.

      "If the generals think that they can silence public opinion and free
      speech in Thailand, they are fooling themselves," he opined.

      Fernando said he hoped that people would take time to read through
      the 1997 charter, whether on the AHRC website or elsewhere, and
      recall what had been lost to Thailand a week ago.

      "Take section 32, which prohibits torture," Fernando said.

      "There has never been a domestic law to enforce the provision, but at
      least it was there in principle," he said.

      "Now even that much does not exist, so is torture legal in Thailand
      today? Upon what grounds can the country stand when it talks about
      adherence to international standards?" Fernando asked pointedly.

      The coup group led by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin has said that it
      will hand power to a civilian prime minister under an interim prime
      minister next week.

      However, it has said reportedly said that it will not disband but
      will continue to "assist" in governance.

      "This latest remark lays bare the lie that was propagated through the
      world media from the start that these generals would just come and go
      quietly," Fernando observed.

      "There is no such thing as a short-term junta," he concluded.

      # # #

      About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-
      governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues
      in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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      Tel: +(852) - 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) - 2698-6367
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