Violence intensified in the internal armed conflict in southern Thailand, with insurgents increasingly targeting civilians and staging indiscriminate attacks in which civilians were killed. Security forces continued to torture and ill-treat detainees in the South. For the eighth consecutive year, no official was convicted of perpetrating human rights violations in the South, and none was prosecuted for deaths that occurred during the 2010 anti-government demonstrations. Authorities continued to persecute those peacefully expressing their opinion, primarily through the use of the lèse majesté law and Computer-related Crimes Act. Authorities tightened restrictions on asylum-seekers and refugees from Myanmar, particularly during massive flooding, and exploited migrant workers from neighbouring countries.
National elections in July resulted in Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, becoming Prime Minister, and her Puea Thai party winning an absolute majority in parliament. However, the party won no parliamentary seats from the country’s three southern insurgency-wracked provinces, which experienced a spike in attacks and saw the death toll for the past eight years reach 5,000. The six-year-long political crisis continued, with election-related violence, and tension between the new government and the army later in the year. The Truth for Reconciliation Commission, set up in the aftermath of the April-May 2010 demonstrations, released its first two reports with recommendations.
In August, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons visited Thailand. In October, Thailand’s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review.Top of page
In keeping with past trends, the majority of those killed in the internal armed conflict in southern Thailand were civilians; more than half were Muslims. Insurgents increasingly used bombs and improvised explosive devices that targeted civilians or harmed them in indiscriminate attacks. Such attacks were partly designed to spread terror among the civilian population.
Security forces also continued to commit human rights violations in their counter-insurgency efforts.
For the eighth consecutive year, no official or member of the Thai security forces in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces was convicted of committing any offences involving human rights violations. This was due in part to Section 17 of the Emergency Decree, which remained in effect there (excepting one district) since July 2005. The decree provided immunity from prosecution to officials who commit such acts in the course of their duty. No one was brought to justice for the death of 85 Muslims at the hands of authorities in the Tak Bai district of Narathiwat province in October 2004; or the death in custody through torture of imam Yapha Kaseng in March 2008 in Narathiwat.
The Department of Special Investigation concluded that security forces were responsible for at least 16 deaths during the April-May 2010 anti-government demonstrations. Their cases were sent to the Office of the Attorney General to consider a submission to a court for inquest. No one was charged with those or any of the other 76 deaths.Top of page
Freedom of expression continued to be suppressed, primarily through the lèse majesté law (Article 112 of the Criminal Code), the Computer-related Crimes Act, and intimidation of the media. Most of those detained, charged, and/or sentenced under the laws were prisoners of conscience. On 1 December, the government inaugurated the Cyber Security Operation Centre to suppress cyber crimes, particularly offences against the monarchy committed on social media websites.
Following statements earlier in the year by the National Security Council’s Secretary-General and the governor of Tak province, indicating that refugees from Myanmar would be repatriated, the Thai government pledged during its Universal Periodic Review to uphold its international obligation not to return people to countries where they faced persecution.
Thailand’s refugee population grew, and third-country resettlement continued. By the end of the year, nearly 150,000 refugees lived in nine camps on the Myanmar border. However, for the fifth consecutive year, the government did not activate its procedure for screening asylum-seekers, so nearly half the camp-based population was unregistered. Authorities discouraged aid organizations from providing food and other humanitarian assistance to this population. Asylum-seekers continued to be arrested, detained indefinitely, and deported or repatriated to countries where they were at risk of persecution.
During extensive flooding in Thailand beginning in August, immigration authorities and police arrested, deported, and extorted money from many migrants who lost their documentation in the floods or whose employers had withheld it. Migrant workers who returned to the borders without passports were often intercepted at immigration checkpoints, and in the case of workers from Myanmar especially, arrested and detained. Deportation – sometimes at night – generally followed, during which some were extorted of funds either directly by Thai authorities or with their knowledge.
There were no known executions. However, Thai courts handed down 40 death sentences in 2011, a modest drop from the average of approximately one per week over the past several years. Death row prisoners continued to be shackled in leg irons throughout their detention, despite a 2009 court decision, still under appeal, declaring it illegal.