As a lawyer specializing in human rights for over 22 years, Yaowalak Anupan, 48, was one of the scheduled speakers for last Thursday’s (Jun 4) disbanded briefing at the Foreign Correspondent Club of Thailand on the country’s current human rights situation under the junta. Her work as the co-founder of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, which provides support to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNCHR), was awarded in December 2014 by the French Embassy in Bangkok with its inaugural Human Rights Award. Here, she talks about the challenges currently facing human rights work in Thailand.
Your organization is new here. What is the duty of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights?
We are a group of lawyers and attorneys. Our objective is to focus on issues of human rights violation. We provide legal assistance and legal advice to individuals facing charges by the NCPO and collect information about the cases.
How do you feel about the FCCT’s event being canceled by the NCPO?
It’s no surprise that happened. I was expecting it. The NCPO would never tolerate people criticizing the military’s achievements during the current regime. It happened once last year but that time they called me and threatened to arrest me if I went ahead with the event. I told them that I wasn’t violating any Thai laws. Article 4 in The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand states that Thailand must respect the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights legislated by the UN.
How did they react?
After I stated the facts of my position, they sounded agitated and pointed out that I shouldn’t use “my” law against “their” law. They still threatened arrest and said I would be subjected to attitude adjustment. There were no arrests in the end because I had done nothing wrong. Law is my expertise. So this time they didn’t call me; instead they went directly to the FCCT.
How would you like to see conditions change before Thailand goes forward with an election?
The country needs to be more tolerant and open-minded. Thais are likely to take abrupt decisions and always follow the actions of the past. At the time of the 2006 coup, the popularity of Thaksin’s government had hit its peak; it was about to decrease. Then the military seized power and brought gunfire and tanks onto the street. We thought our interminable political situation was going to be resolved but it wasn’t. It started a slow burning fire that led to Yingluk being elected as Thailand’s prime minister.
How does the country move forward now?
Thailand needs a new election. It has to return the right for individuals to express their opinions as soon as possible. There is a possibility that the Thai military will extend its rule for two more years because they say Thailand needs to undergo some unclear process of reformation before elections can take place. That means Thais are being denied their right to political participation.