[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Saturday criticized [press release] the lack of action taken by the Thai government to bring police and military personnel responsible for the deaths of protestors in Tak Bai in 2004 to justice. This failure, according to HRW Asian director Brad Adams [official profile], “is a glaring injustice that brings the police, military and courts into disrepute.” The 2004 attacks [HRW backgrounder] occurred during a protest by ethnic Malay Muslims when police shot and killed seven people, while another 78 were suffocated or crushed during transportation to an army camp. Despite giving compensation to some of the victims and their families, the government has not taken action to prosecute those criminally responsible. The Supreme Court in August 2013 ruled [Amnesty International press release] that security forces could not be blamed for the incident, as they acted as part of their duties.
Thailand has faced political instability since the May 22 coup, and the junta has been accused of violating human rights in its attempts to maintain order. Martial law was instituted on May 20, two days before the coup [JURIST report] that ousted the former Thai government and installed General Prayuth Chan-ocha [BBC profile] as the country’s new prime minister. Since then, political demonstrations have been banned, and hundreds have been arrested for protesting the junta. A group of Thai human rights activists denounced the country’s state of martial law earlier this week, accusing the ruling military junta of imposing a judicial “twilight zone” [JURIST report]. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] in August that the junta is limiting free expression by prosecuting lese-majeste cases for defamation of the royal family. Independent UN human rights experts also called on [JURIST report] the new government to address its alleged human rights violations in June. Military police arrested [JURIST report] a Thai human rights defender and her son in their home in May. Shortly after the coup, the junta released a statement [JURIST report] asking citizens not to gather for political demonstrations.