Sunday, 28 April 2013

Why did Human Rights Watch in Thailand pass my details to the US authorities?

Back in 2011 I had preview access to an as yet unreleased Wikileaks cable that included reference to a Human Rights Watch staff member making possible lese majeste comments.

At that time I had been critical of a number of things HRW had done, including Brad Adams' appalling claims at a meeting at the UK Parliament, but felt I was still sympathetic to their work in Thailand. I therefore privately warned Human Rights Watch about this matter as I felt it may leave their staff member open to possible legal threat.

What I also discovered in that cable was that Human Rights Watch made a statement that indicated they had refused to defend Thai trade unionist, Jittra Kotchadet, against lese majeste charges.

Screen grab of email from HRW admitting they passed my details to US Embassy

Whilst making it very clear that I would not be making any of the contents of the cable public - something that I never did with Wikileaks themselves putting all the cables in the public domain later in 2011 - I asked HRW to explain why they were adopting a public stance of condemning lese majeste but then taking another position in secret.

Despite several emails and phone calls to HRW staff members they never responded and never clarified the discrepancy between their public and private positions.

I was then astonished to find, several months later, that my questions to HRW regarding lese majeste were being circulated by a Bangkok Post journalist after they had received information from a US Embassy staffer that basically amounted to a smear campaign against me.

I contacted HRW's head office in the USA and asked them to explain. In response I received an accusatory, aggressive and threatening phone call from HRW's rather unpleasant legal advisor, Dinah Pokempnor.

Yet even Ms Pokempnor knew I had caught HRW and she sent me a mealy-mouthed and quite pathetic excuse as to why HRW breached all the rules of confidentiality and passed my details to the US Embassy.

Upon being notified by you that unredacted US Embassy cables leaked to Wikileaks mentioned one of our researchers, we contacted the  embassy to ask if we could ascertain the contents of these cables. The embassy asked us how we knew that there were such cables, and we told them you had alerted us.  

 Anyone coming into contact with HRW people in Bangkok, staff members such as Sunai Phasuk, Brad Adams or Phil Robertson,  should be warned - they cannot be trusted and may pass on your details to state agencies and other authorities with links to the Thai military without your knowledge or your permission. 

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Did Brad Adams and Human Rights Watch in Thailand lie about the Red Shirts?

This following article was originally published by Asia Sentinel but was censored by them.

In early 2011, less than a year after the terrible violence that shook Bangkok - violence which occurred after the unelected Thai PM, Abhisit Vejjajiva, sent armed soldiers against unarmed pro-democracy Red Shirt protesters - Human Rights Watch Asia Director, Brad Adams, popped up at a meeting held in the UK Parliament.

There Adams accused the Red Shirts of starting the fires that engulfed small parts of downtown Bangkok – many of which began only after the Thai Army had moved into and secured the areas where the fires occurred.

Adams was emphatic as he spoke to British lawmakers stating, without equivocation, that

 “There was a plan to burn Bangkok and that was executed by the Red Shirts”

(see this youtube clip from 1min 35secs - the date at the beginning is wrong, it should say 2011 not 2001).

HRW Brad Adams speaking at meeting at UK Parliament
 Yet, as has since transpired, Adams had no firm evidence to back up his claims and that he deliberately distorted the truth in order to keep in place what appears to have been HRW’s own, secret, anti-Thaksin – and by proxy – anti-Red Shirt agenda. Of course the consequences of Adams’ misrepresentations had a real-life impact on the human rights of ordinary, innocent Thais who’d only been attempting to secure the kind of democratic rights Adams himself enjoys in his home country, the USA.

 As yet, despite almost three years of investigation and 100s of arrests, not one single Red Shirt has been found guilty of setting fire to any buildings in Bangkok (some Red Shirts, based on flimsy evidence, have been found guilty of arson by single judge, no jury, courts in other parts of Thailand - but these cases are now under appeal) and, more recently, two Red Shirts accused of setting the largest of the fires at the Central World shopping centre have been found completely innocent of all charges related to that act. These individuals were, however, held in prison for almost 3years, stripped of their basic dignity and rights and their families suffered great hardship as a result.

 So why the silence from Adams? Surely he should now apologise directly to the accused given that he had publicly attempted to pass off unsubstantiated unproven allegations as fact, thereby abusing his position as a trusted source on human rights matters? Why wasn’t Adams able to allow the Red Shirts to be judged solely on the actual evidence placed before a court? Has he never heard of sub-judice and prejudice? Or does a right to have a trial free from such prejudice only apply to those Adams deems fit? Adams false comments  to the British parliament must go down as an appalling abuse of office by an international human rights director and he must be held accountable for that. Or, at the bare minimum, exposed to the full glaring light of the truth.

 HRW’s record in Thailand is questionable at best and disgraceful at worst. The Wikileaks cables revealed HRW’s Thai staff to be self-confessed anti-Thaksin activists, who supported the illegal 2006 coup and who refused to support Thai trade unionists being harassed with Thailand’s draconian lese majeste laws. Wikileaks also revealed the close contact between the US mission in Thailand and HRW (the US have long supported, armed and provided intelligence and training to the most extreme rightwing elements of the coup/massacre-loving Thai Army) with HRW staffers visiting the US embassy on over 60 occasions.   

 When you add in Adams’ disingenuous and deliberate misrepresentations then you have to question why Adams is still in post. He, ultimately, is also responsible for the shameful behaviour of HRW in Thailand and given that his actions have been part of the mood music that diminished the basic human rights of ordinary Thais the only honourable thing is for Adams to resign. That, however, is doubtful - Adams is more likely to have further falsehoods to distribute and trials to prejudice in the future. In the meantime those interested in protecting human rights in Thailand and Asia would do well to be suspicious of the motives of HRW's regional director.

In the video of Adams speaking at the UK Parliament he states that "we should go after everybody and not take sides". Unfortunately the Wikileaks cables reveal that HRW almost certainly DID take sides and that's why, ultimately, anyone seeking the truth must go after HRW as well. It was in this spirit that this article was written.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Thai Army - a video of criminals at work

Seems like the Thai Army are up to their old tricks of brutalising their own soldiers.

A new video clip of a group of Thai Army officers torturing and beating an ordinary conscript has emerged revealing, once again, what a vicious bunch of thugs they are.

Of course armies need to be tough and soldiers should be able to fulfil their duties but there is something vicious and undisciplined about the Thai Army - something that resembles a gangster clique rather than professional, honourable fighting men.

But then the Thai Army with its long history of massacres and coups has never really had to defend Thailand from anything more than unarmed students, refugees and pro-democracy protesters. To routinely shoot your own citizens is not the work of soldiers but of criminals.

And who arms and trains this rabble?

Just ask the air-headed US Ambassador Kristie Kenney or the slippery UK envoy Mark Kent.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

กรณ์: “ดร.ทักษิณเคยเสนองานให้ผม”

ความสับสนเกี่ยวกับการไปฮ่องกงของนายกรณ์ครั้งล่าสุดกรณีที่เขาดันไปอยู่ในในโรงแรมเดียวกันวันเดียวกันกับทักษิณ ชินวัตร “โดยบังเอิญ” ทำให้ผมนึกถึงบางอย่างที่เขาบอกผมเมื่อต้นปี พ.ศ. 2554 ในระหว่างการสัมภาษณ์เพื่อลงในวปไชต์ Asian Correspondent ว่า

ดร.ทักษิณเคยเสนองานให้ผมครั้งหนึ่ง แต่ผมได้ปฎิเสธไป
ผมพูดได้เลยว่า แม้ว่านายกรณ์จะเป็นผู้ดีไฮโซทุกกระเบียดนิ้ว แต่เขาไม่ใช่คนที่มีอุดมการณ์ ในความเห็นผมคือ เขาคือพวกแทคโนแครตมากกว่านักการเมืองที่มีความเชื่อมั่นอย่างแรงกล้า และดังนั้นจึงเป็นเรื่องง่ายมากที่เขาจะเปลี่ยนจุดยืนหากมีเงื่อนไขที่เหมาะสม

เรื่องราวที่ว่านายกรณ์ไปฮ่องกงเพื่อไป “สอดแนม” เป็นเรื่องที่ไม่สมเหตุสมผล นายกรณ์มีความสูงมากกว่า 180 ซม. ซึ่งเป็นคนไทยที่สูงที่สุดคนหนึ่งเท่าที่ผมเคยพบมา และเพราะความสูงของเขาทำให้เขาเป็นจุดเด่นอย่างมากไม่ว่าเขาจะไปที่ไหนในในเอเชียตะวันตะวันออกเฉียงใต้ เขาเป็นคนสุดท้ายที่คุณจะส่งไปทำงานที่เป็นความลับ
เรื่องที่ว่านายกรณ์มีความจงรักภักดีต่อนายอภิสิทธิ์อย่างมาก เป็นเรื่องที่ผมไม่เชื่อเลย
แหล่งข่าวของผมซึ่งมีความใกล้ชิดกับนายอภิสิทธิ์เป็นอย่างมากไม่เคยพูดเรื่องดีๆเกี่ยวกับหัวหน้าพรรคประชาธิปัตย์คนนี้เลย จริงๆแล้วชัดเจนมากว่า พวกเขารู้สึกว่านายอภิสิทธิ์เป็นคนเลวร้ายที่ทำลายพรรคประชาธิปัตย์
ดังนั้น นายกรณ์จะเปลี่ยนใจไปร่วมกับเพื่อไทยหรือไม่? อาจจะไม่ใช่ แต่นี่อาจเป็นข้อตกลงที่จะเอานายกรณ์ขึ้นมาเป็นหัวหน้าพรรคเพื่อแลกเปลี่ยนเอานายอภิสิทธิ์เข้าคุกหรือไม่?


Korn: "Dr Thaksin offered me a job"

With all the hullabaloo about Korn's recent visit to Hong Kong where he "accidentally" ended up in the same hotel on the same day as Thaksin Shinawatra I was reminded of something he told me back in early 2011 when I him interviewed for Asian Correspondent.

Dr Thaksin once offered me a job but I turned him down

I would also say that while Korn is a patrician hi-so to his very finger tips he is also not very ideological. He is somebody, in my view, who is very much a technocrat rather than a conviction politician and could easily, in the right conditions have his head turned. 

The story that Korn was in Hong Kong to "spy" makes no sense at all - at over 6feet high he's one of the tallest Thais I've ever met and, due to his height, stands out like a sore thumb pretty much everywhere he goes in SE Asia. He'd be the last person you'd send to do covert work.

As for Korn's much touted allegiance to Abhisit - no, I don't buy it. 

Sources I have who are very close to Abhisit had nothing good at all to say about the Democrat Party leader. In fact they made it very clear they felt he was an awful man who was destroying the Democrat Party.

So, would Korn jump ship to Pheu Thai? Unlikely but could a deal be made to put Korn in the leadership position in exchange for Abhisit going to jail? 

Here's hoping.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

CENSORED! With "journalistic rules" like these who needs the state to intervene?

Barely a week into my new blogging stint at Asia Sentinel and my entire input has been censored.

The email I received from Asia Sentinel's editor John Berthelsen mentioned "journalistic rules" and claimed that my posts on his site "especially about Brad Adams and Robert Horn, are libelous on their face and open us to the possibility of defamation suits. We have taken them down." 

Of course John might’ve *cough* checked first and realised I hadn’t posted a single word about Time's Bangkok correspondent, Robert Horn, at Asia Sentinel - in fact I haven't written a single word about Horn anywhere since January 2013, three months ago!

Oh well, such are “journalistic rules” I guess - one of which now seems to be you censor your contributor by making up complete falsehoods about them.

In total I wrote only three pieces for Asia Sentinel, with the one that seems to have got them the most hot under the collar being about Human Rights Watch Asia Director, Brad Adams - more on that later. The other two pieces pulled by Asia Sentinel were an oped published a week ago about Abhisit where I made the clearly outrageous claim that the Democrat Party leader was a danger to democracy and a travel-themed piece about the Korean DMZ. Why were they pulled? Is travel writing that passé? Maybe Abhisit has finally understood how democracy works and now respects the will of the Thai people? Had John even read any of my copy before he “censored” it? After all he didn’t even seem to know what I had actually posted.

As an aside, my Robert Horn story, which was posted here on this blog several months ago, was picked up and published by two major Thai dailies – Khao Sod and Matichon – and was 100% factual. Horn, Time magazine’s Bangkok correspondent, helped promote a luxury boutique hotel owned by Democrat Party secretary, Jirayu (Joey) Tulyanond - Horn also very likely took freebies from Joey. There is no equivocation about that, Horn's promotion of Joey's property was widely published, and the Time correspondent who, co-incidentally, always takes a pro-Democrat Party position, has never denied or refuted it. If the English language Thai media’s much vaunted claim to “objectivity” can’t deal with even simple pieces of evidence that’s really their problem and shows why plenty of people believe they’re something of a joke.

I’m also well aware that certain members of the Thai foreign media corps and “human rights workers” – in a mix of petty jealously and politicisation - have a penchant for shutting down the debate on Thailand. There was a time when FCCT members and long term expat journalists, such as the recently deceased Dan White, regularly smeared, slandered and defamed anyone who dared to venture from the pre-agreed dominant Democrat Party/Bangkok Post line. Even more insidious and weird is that Human Rights Watch have admitted to me in writing that they "discussed" me with the US Embassy in Bangkok after I contacted HRW in confidence as a possible source - this has always struck me as beyond peculiar. That’s shameful but even more shameful is the Bangkok foreign media corps’ failure to properly get the story out that the Thai Army were murdering unarmed civilians in Bangkok 2010.

As for Brad Adams – in the next few days I am going to repost my piece about him that was pulled by Asia Sentinel and would challenge him to sue me. He won’t because he knows he has no case. In that piece I accused Adams of making statements about the Red Shirts that may have prejudiced a fair trial against them - statements he'd have never made against the accused of an American or British trial. In my view Brad Adams is a liar and the Human Rights Watch team in Thailand are deeply politicised with questions regarding their connections and sympathies to the military and the Thai extreme rightwing remaining unanswered. 

I am also left wondering who lent on Asia Sentinel. I am not into conspiracy theories but clearly some pressure seems to have been placed on them hence John’s slightly rambling equivocation of the Horn story, a story that hadn’t actually appeared on Asia Sentinel and was months old. John has since denied anyone lent on him but I remain unconvinced. It’s all depressingly familiar and reveals that the Bangkok foreign media corps clearly don’t like the truth being told about them and will close ranks if threatened.

I also wrote to John and asked him to tell me where, exactly, the "libel" had occurred, who had complained and whether any legal threats were made or if legal advice was sought. His response made vague claims but gave no reference to any specific “defamation” or libel – how could he when there wasn’t any? – but he did say that he “got concerns from other AS [Asia Sentinel] editors who read your other postings, including one from an editor who has lived in Thailand and knows Adams.” So was Adams involved in helping to censor my work? Was a phone call made? Given Adams and HRW's previous behaviour I think we almost certainly can’t rule that out. And why the mention of the Robert Horn story at all, a story which had already been widely published and uncontested? Did Horn make a call as well? And why delete all of my work, including the stuff where even John makes no claim of there being any hint of supposed "defamation"? 
In my view it seems that Asia Sentinel censored my writing on their site because of work I’d done elsewhere and because I'd previously written some home truths about their friends and associates.  If that’s defamation, well, I’m still waiting for the writ. 

But then that’s Thailand – a place where the more truth you tell the greater the defamation.