Contact: Roland Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please see www.dictatorwatch.org/chrono
for links to the reports and photo essay described below.
QUESTIONS FOR THAILAND
10 February 2003
Dictator Watch announces the release of three new reports detailing Thailands
support for the Burmese juntas program of ethnic cleansing along their shared
border. In addition, we have published a new photo essay, Reasons
to be a Refugee, with information regarding refugees, internally displaced
persons (IDPs), attacked villages, the use of porters resulting in death, and
This information is being published as a response to Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatras visit to Burma February 9-10, and as a submission to the Free
Burma Coalitions national conference at George Washington University, Washington,
D.C., February 15-16.
Regarding the reports, we have a number of questions to pose.
1. How many people have to die when Thailand loses face?
In October 1999, individuals from a group called the Vigorous Burmese Student
Warriors (VBSW) took over Burmas embassy in Bangkok. This was a major news
event, and it ended when the rebels negotiated a helicopter to take them to the
border (using foreign tourists as hostages - see www.dictatorwatch.org/phmain
for photos of the embassy takeover). At the border they stayed in an area occupied
by another group, Gods Army (GA - which became famous because it was led
by twin boys). GA was a resistance group composed of Karen soldiers. The Karen
are an ethnic group that reside in the mountains that divide Thailand and Burma.
While some of the following is known, the full story of what happened next has
never been told.
Thailand was outraged at this event. It was a significant loss of face for the
country - that such an action could occur in downtown Bangkok. As described in
the first report, The Fifty-Five That Disappeared,
the Thai military shelled the area - inside Burma - where GA was based. This,
together with a ground attack from the Burmese Army, was very effective. The GA
and local villages in the area suffered great casualties. In a desperate response
(which resulted in another major news story), about ten people from GA crossed
into Thailand and took control of the Ratchaburi hospital, in an attempt to gain
medical supplies and assistance. This ended, in the middle of the night, when
Thai commandos stormed the hospital. All the people from GA were killed in the
raid. Some accounts suggest that they surrendered, and were then executed by the
commandos. This possibility, that they were summarily executed, has never been
While the VBSW and GA actions in Bangkok and Ratchaburi were unethical - criminal
- it is noteworthy that no one, other than the members of GA, died as a result.
As described in the report, the balance of GA, and a large group of villagers
from this area, then fled to the Thai border. At the border they were taken to
Kaway Thote military post by soldiers from the Thai Armys 9th Infantry Division.
On 4 February 2000, 125 men were separated from the group. Subsequently, on 19
February, 55 of the 125, including nineteen GA soldiers and thirty-six ordinary
villagers, were arrested. They have never been heard from since.
2. How many people have to suffer because of Thailands support for the Burmese
The second report, Sixty-Three Lives That
Do Not Matter, Persecuted in Burma - Denied Sanctuary in Thailand, documents
the sufferings of a group of Karen villagers who fled from the Burmese Army in
October 2001, only to reach the Thai border and be denied admittance. This denial
was in direct contravention of Thailands obligation, and historical practice,
to admit refugees fleeing war. (Photography documenting the group is available
at www.dictatorwatch.org/phmain.) The new report describes in detail their treatment
at the hands of the Thai border authorities, and discusses their current, and
still life-threatening, situation.
Also, the subjects of both these reports have been listed in a new filing to the
United Nations Commission on Human Rights by the Asian Legal Resource Centre,
on forced repatriation of IDPs from Thailand.
3. How far will Thailand go to assist the Burmese generals?
Dictator Watch has been given credible information that suggests the Burmese Army
has established a military base on a mountainside inside Thailand. This information
is presented in our third report, The
Yielding of Thai Sovereignty.
Considering the many situations documented in the photo essay and the three reports,
we have some additional questions, both for the Thai government and the Thai people?
For the Thai government:
- Which comes first, personal interests (PM Thaksin has a business deal with one
of Burmas leading generals), or the interests of the nation?
- Since Thailand is, at least in name, a democracy, why are you siding with the
Burmese dictators against the ethnic groups and other organizations that reside
along your border, and that are struggling for freedom and democracy?
- Is Thailand best served by siding with murderous dictatorships, including Burma
and China, or through joining the global democratic community, including its efforts
to secure human rights for all people?
- Is Thailand part of a neo-colonialist structure: Is it a colony of China, and
is it in turn colonizing Burma, Laos and Cambodia?
- Is extra-judicial execution, including the use of Death Squads, or Black
Police, ever an acceptable tactic, e.g., in Thailands current campaign
- Does Thailand have a functioning rule of law, or is it a kleptocracy - a criminal
state ruled by mafia gangs and warlords that presents itself as a democracy
to deceive its own people, and the international community?
- For PM Thaksin - you have wasted American aid in the fight against narcotics,
you have business dealings with the criminals who are responsible therefor, and
you have suspended Thai cooperation in the international effort against terrorism:
What effect do you think these steps will have on Thailands relationships
with its long-term allies, the U.S. and the E.U.?
For the Thai people:
- When you sell your votes, how can you possibly expect your leaders
to serve your interests, instead of abusing their power?
- Should Thai natural habitats be preserved? If so, why do you persist in their
- What does it mean to be Thai? What is Real Thai? Are the ethnic
groups in Thailands mountains Thai? What rights should they have?
- If you were a tourist from another country, would you visit Thailand?