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Thai Government Denying Human Rights!

Thai Government Denying Human Rights!

Arrest of 200 Villagers at Government House

July 17, 2000

At 14:45 (2:45 p.m.) today (Monday, 17 July 2000), the Chuan government ordered more than 1,000 policemen to forcibly remove protesters of the Assembly of the Poor from the area around the Government House. One group of 200 protesters inside the grounds of the Government House were arrested and removed by about 600 policemen and women from the area in more than ten vehicles.

Somparn Kuendee, advisor to the Assembly and a staff member of the Southeast Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN), reported by cell phone just prior to herself being arrested, that a representative of the police announced to the protesters that they had tresspassed onto government property and would be arrested. While making the arrests, Somparn said that some police harranged the protesters. At this moment, the police took the arrested protesters to the Police Officer Academy located at Klong Hok in Pathum Thainai and the Police Officer Academy located at the Region One Border Patrol Police Headquarters in Salaya in Nakorn Pathom.

Most of those arrested were senior citizens, women, and children, one of

them being only two years old.

The other group of 500 protesters were pushed and beaten back across the

Prempracha canal by about 500-600 police armed with batons and shields and their the vehicle with their loudspeaker was confiscated. About 30 villagers were injured. Two of them were so seriously injured that they were sent to Wachirat Hospital for treatment.

At 3:15 p.m., a press conference was held at the SEARIN office by the Academics for the Poor led by Professor Nidhi Iaosriwong from Chiang Mai

University and Mr. Somchai Sirichai of the Northern Farmer's Network. Professor Nidhi argued that we need to understand the historical context of the protest staged by the Assembly of the Poor, particularly the Pak Moon villagers who have been waiting for an acceptable resolution by the government for 16 months. But the government has shown its indifference to the suffering of the people despite the recommendations made by the committee set up by the government itself to investigate the issue.

The actions taken by the government indicate the govenrment's apathy and the consistent preference for violence in resolving conflicts with the poor.

Professor Nidhi urged that the people in Bangkok and in Thai society in general recognize the government's illegitimate use of violence and the narrow-minded and undemocratic attitude prevalent in the Democrat-led government. This can be used against other powerless segments of Thai society any time. The fact that the affected people occupied the premises of the Government House should be seen as their attempt to negotiate with a government that refuses to listen to their long-standing problems. Denied any other avenues to have their grievances heard, they are given only this limited choice. The middle class should understand that the protesters are not initiating any violence or merely agitating. They have, on the contrary, been ignored and deprived of their right to register their grievance.

Mr. Somchai condemned the government and demanded the immediate release of the detained villagers.

We call upon our international network of friends and those concerned to

take action. First, please stage a protest at any Royal Thai Embassies, especially in Washington, D.C., Tokyo, Sydney and any country of the European Union. Second, please send a fax to Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai or to any Royal Thai Embassy abroad.

The message of any protest or fax should speak against the use of violence, demand the immediate release of the arrested protesters, and call for the government to comply fully with the recommednations of the committee set up to address the 16 conflicts under the banner of the Aseembly of the Poor. Most immediate is the opening of the gates at Pak Mun Dam. However, the government must also immediately address the remaining 15 unresolved issues, seven covering dams, another seven concerning land rights, and a final one concerning the negative effects of the Chong Mek Development Project.

South-East Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN)


ECOTERRA Intl. Nairobi Node

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