An Open Letter to the President of the United States
My name is Prachuab Charoensuk. I am a naturalized US citizen, born in Thailand. I am one of the founding members and Executive Director in charge of International Affairs Department of RED-USA, a human rights organization advocating human rights, equality and democracy in Thailand. Our membership consists of approximately 20,000 professionals from all walks of life. We are based in Southern California.
I am writing to remind you of the continued gross violations of human rights in Thailand as committed by the military junta regime headed by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha.
We are not happy with the annual Cobra Gold military exercise which was held on Feb. 9 and the US-ASEAN summit to be held on February 15–16, 2016 in California.
We are disturbed that your administration appears to be forging closer ties with the junta- which, in our view, will send the wrong message to this illegal regime. Such a high-profile summit in the US with the junta will serve as a propaganda tool and legitimize them both within Thailand and internationally.
We are also concerned that the US-ASEAN Summit may undermine other US government commitments on human rights and other basic constitutional rights and that the Thai people have a lower priority than economic, political or security aspects insofar as our RED’s interests are concerned.
US Code § 8422 "restricts assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coop or decree." Section 502B of The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 prohibits the provision of security assistance to countries with poor human rights practices and Thailand's human rights record has been abysmal in the wake of the coup.
Frank G. Anderson, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jan. 28, reported that "Americans pay for much of the military aid going to Thailand. Sadly that aid is most often used against the innocent Thai people, notably democracy, and human rights advocates, rather than external enemies.”
Why were these laws, which could help restrain the military dictator Prayuth Chan-Ocha and other human rights abusers in Thailand, ignored by our government?
The Thai junta does not deserve to be included in this US-ASEAN Summit. The junta has a careless and arrogant attitude towards the US and the Thai people. This was prominently illustrated in the recent treatment of the US Ambassador to Thailand, Glynn Davies, who was frivolously accused of and investigated for lèse majesté,for expressing concern over the 60-100 Thai victims of this barbaric law, also known as Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code.
A list of lèse majesté law victims can be found on this website.
As an example of how vicious this law is, a woman has just received a 30-year sentence by the junta's military court for six posts on Facebook for allegedly insulting the royals. Other cases consist of two innocent people, a policeman and a fortune teller, who suddenly died in military custody within weeks of their arrests on lèse majesté charges.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha will not last long; he is self-destructive and often displays idiosyncratic behavior in public which has put Thailand to shame in the eyes of the civilized world. He promises so-called "democratic reforms" but in truth, his top priorities have been censorship of the press and social media and public witch-hunts against any and all critics of his regime. The draft constitutions put together under his watch have been highly undemocratic and downright dictatorial.
Most people view such drafts, whose committee was all appointed by the Royals and the military, as a stalling tactic for the regime to stay in power for as long as possible. Those who expected reform and a quick return to democracy are disillusioned.
Mr. President, we suggest that you disassociate or stay as far away as possible from the junta in this summit to demonstrate your solidarity with the Thai people and to avoid the embarrassment of being seen with dictators. If possible, we ask you to uninvite all representatives of this junta government and cancel their visas.
Mr. President, I can list more than 40 major reasons why you should withdraw the invite top the Thai junta to this summit, and I do so in Appendix I.
Unlike some countries we deal with, Thailand aspires to be a democracy that respects human rights. (Even the junta claims democracy as its goal). For the sake of the Thai people, we should hold the junta to its promise to return the country to democracy, and we should pressure Thailand to honor its international human rights commitments. Also, Thailand has officially ratified some treaties guaranteeing international human rights; these treaties also require Thailand to be a fully democratic nation.
Please relay to the Thai junta that concerned Thais and Americans stand together in demanding Thailand to:
Release all the political prisoners and dismiss pending cases of the alleged lèse majesty law violations or Article 112 of Thai Criminal Code.
Drop all charges against the student activists, NDM (Neo-Democracy Movement).
Demand that the drafting committee of the new constitution be elected and NOT selected.
Conduct a fair election without any influence from the monarchy or the Royal Thai Army.
Rescind Article 44 which gives unlimited power to the military junta.
Rescind Article 112, the lèse majesté law, which limits free speech, and cripples open political discussion.
Rescind NCPO Order Number 7/2014 prohibiting political assembly and Article 116, which is used for the military harassment of community and student groups.
Reopen and retry all cases with wrongful convictions due to improper legal due process. This would be the best way for Thailand's current rulers to prove to the world that they believe in democracy, as they claim.
Compensate the families of the dead victims for their suffering for past atrocities.
Respect the rules of the international laws and principles of human rights.
Demand civil, not military, trial for all civilians.
Most of all, please do not give the Thai junta leader a chance for a photo-op with you or any of your staff.
Your attention to these urgent matters is highly appreciated.
Prachuab Charoensuk, Executive Director, RED-USA