Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Token "PAD is Responsible Also" Pieces in The Nation and Bangkok Post

The PAD is equally to blame for Oct 7

Soonruth Bunyamanee

Bangkok Post

On Oct 7 the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leaders led thousands of supporters to seal all entrances of Parliament House in an attempt to block MPs and senators from announcing the government policy and formally launching the Somchai Wongsawat administration.

Based on the PAD's earlier move to occupy Government House, it was not pessimistic to expect a repeat at the Parliament, so the police operation to disperse the protesters to pave the way for the assembly was acceptable and not a crime against humanity.

Where the police went wrong was not in their decision to disperse the demonstrators but the way they went about it.

It's not hard to imagine what the police were thinking when the PAD's seizure of several state agencies and Government House on Aug 26 was still fresh in their minds.

On that occasion, order was maintained as police and the government exercised patience in order to avoid violence, for they knew that if it happened, the brunt of the blame would fall on them.

PAD leaders always say their protest is based on "ahimsa", a Hindu doctrine which advocates non-violence and peaceful resolution.

The PAD could be worthy of respect if they truly were really following the path of ahimsa.

If we step back from the recent violence and look back at the overall situation over recent months, we can see whether or not the PAD movement is serving the ahimsa principle well.

Before seizing Government House, PAD supporters occupied and blocked main streets in Bangkok-Ratchadamnoen Nok avenue and Phitsanulok road - to use as a base for their protest, causing a lot of problems for commuters and schoolchildren.

Then, as this proved unpopular, they turned their attention to Government House, taking complete control of the compound, which they maintain to this day, and denying the head of the administration access to his offices. Then followed the siege of Parliament.

PAD leaders insist its protests are peaceful and constitutional.

Let's talk about constitutionality. PAD leaders claim their right to stage peaceful rallies based on the first paragraph of Article 63 of the 2007 charter, stipulating that "a person shall enjoy the liberty to assemble peacefully and without arms".

Still, the PAD has never mentioned the following paragraph, stipulating that "restriction on such liberty shall not be imposed except by virtue of the law specifically enacted for the case of public assembly and for securing public convenience in the use of public places".

In addition, Article 28 of the charter concerning the rights and liberties of the Thai people clearly states that "a person can invoke human dignity or exercise his or her rights and liberties in so far as it is not in violation of the rights and liberties of other persons or contrary to the Constitution or good morals'.'

I'm sure the PAD's moves to block streets, seize Government House, and seal off Parliament have violated other people's rights and liberties and caused public inconvenience.

Should the PAD leaders take responsibility for such unconstitutional actions, which they claim to be peaceful?

The PAD leaders should be held accountable for the Oct 7 bloodshed.

Supalak Ganjanakhundee

The Nation

Human-rights defenders in Thailand, who profess to know almost everything there is to know, seem to have overlooked the central principal of human rights by rushing to condemn the police for using "violence" on Tuesday.

Since this so-called violence came from both sides - the police and the protesters - it is unfair to issue statements condemning only the officials. It would be better if the National Human Rights Commission and other like-minded organisations condemned all parties involved in the bloodbath. It is not a question of who used it first, or who exercised more restraint. Anybody using violence needs to be rebuked.

In accordance with the 1998 United Nations declaration, "human rights and fundamental freedom should be promoted and implemented in a fair and equitable manner, without prejudice to the implementation of each of those rights and freedoms".

However, most human-rights activists in Thailand tend to promote just the rights of people suppressed by authorities and fail to follow the principle of taking a non-partisan stand when facing political division and confrontation. They usually end up protecting their chosen side and ignore the rights of the opponent.

When put in the context of the current crisis, human-right activists seem to ignore the fact that People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters violated the rights of parliamentarians and officials as well as media representatives by blocking the gates of the Parliament.

Of course, the freedom of assembly is a right guaranteed by the constitution, it should not be used to violate the law and hinder the basic rights of other people.

Protesting outside the Parliament to express disagreement is acceptable, but trying to derail the delivery of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's policies is going beyond the limit.

The human-rights activists who came out to condemn the police chose to turn a blind eye on the fact that many protesters and PAD security guards were armed with sticks, guns and even bombs. The said weapons were used to injure at least a dozen anti-riot police officers and a protester even tried to kill a police captain by driving a pickup truck over him. In a normal situation, these acts would be called criminal.

Many statements issued by human-right activists after the crackdown na?vely said they wanted to morally back PAD's war against the government, which is widely believed to be the proxy of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They failed to realise that giving moral support to any one party in a conflict is not really the job of a human-rights defender.

It is understandable though why Thai rights defenders find it difficult to remain unbiased. This is because most of them are former political activists who tend to believe that standing against authority is the correct thing, and that protecting people standing against authority is the same as protecting their rights.

However, the current crisis is far too complicated. The PAD protest is not a demonstration in accordance with basic human rights, but has taken the form of a war being waged by conservative elite and reactionary urban middle-classes against politicians elected by the rural poor.

Through its demonstration, the PAD has managed to mislead human-rights defenders into believing that ordinary citizens are exercising their freedom of assembly.

It would be ideal if the PAD tried to achieve its goal through peaceful means. Unfortunately, its core leaders like Sondhi Limthongkul are calling on their warriors to accept the consequences of violence.

Of course, everyone's right needs to be protected, but once violence comes in, this protection becomes very limited.

I am shocked, shocked I tell you to read these token pieces in the midst of all the PAD propaganda.

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