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Thailand Blocks Access To Damaging Human Rights Report

Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks at a news conference after a Cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this month.
Rachen Sageansak
Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks at a news conference after a Cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this month.

Thailand's military junta has apparently blocked domestic access to a scathing new report from U.S.-based Human Rights Watch which describes the country as having fallen into a "bottomless pit" since Army Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power six months ago.

The Bangkok Post reports that clicking on the HRW's report from Thailand "results in a redirection to a splash screen from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, which reads 'this website has inappropriate content and has been suspended.'" It says that there is — or was — an alternate way to reach the report, but that it is not necessarily obvious to the user.

"The fact that the [junta] feels the need to block Human Rights Watch's Thailand webpage means that we must be doing something right," said Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director, in response.

When the report was published earlier this week, Adams said that "Respect for fundamental freedoms and democracy in Thailand under military rule has fallen into an apparently bottomless pit.

"Six months after the coup, criticism is systematically prosecuted, political activity is banned, media is censored, and dissidents are tried in military courts," he said.

HRW noted one example of the regime's alleged heavy-handedness that occurred earlier this month during a speech by Gen. Prayuth, who was appointed prime minister in August, four months after he led the coup that toppled the government of elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

According to HRW:

"[Authorities] arrested five university students for standing up during a speech by Prayuth and revealing t-shirts emblazoned with 'Don't Want a Coup' in Thai. They then raised their hands to give the three-fingered salute, a symbol of resistance in Thailand since the coup. Shortly after the students were taken away to a nearby military camp, Prayuth announced, 'Anyone else want to protest?'"

News of the blocked website comes a day after Prayuth defended his government's handling of the country since the May 22 takeover. It also followed a BBC interview with Thailand's finance minister, who said that elections — originally promised by the junta within a year of the coup — could be delayed until 2016.

"I did not seize power for my benefit," Prayuth said, according to Reuters. "We do not want to abuse power and we do not want to use force.

"My being in this position has not damaged the country," the former army chief said.

Earlier this month, Prayuth, who ordered an anti-corruption campaign, was questioned about his own fortune and that of his fellow army officers now in serving in his Cabinet.

A journalist, who specifically asked Prayuth about an $18 million land sale he made recently, was sternly rebuffed. Although the prime minister gave his daughters a share of the proceeds, he retained assets worth $4 million.

The previous month, Prayuth appeared to issue a warning to journalists about digging too deeply into the finances of his brother, Lt. Gen. Preecha Chan-ocha.

"Don't make such a big deal out of this," he told reporters on October 28. "If you can investigate this, then investigate. If he's guilty, say so. But if he is not guilty, you'd better prepare yourselves."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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