Washington slams Thai record
Extrajudicial killings, corruption and media intimidation mar Kingdom's image
Thailand's human-rights record has "significant problems" due to extrajudicial killings and restrictions on freedom of expression, says the US government.
In the annual human-rights report by the US State Department, which will be released today, Washington took the Thai government to task for violations, especially in the Malay-speaking South.
For the first time the report mentions the high-profile corruption allegations at the new Suvarnabhumi Airport.
This year's assessment is far more extensive and details cases of extrajudicial killings and lawsuits against the media by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The report is part of the global assessment of human rights in more than 120 countries, which have been carried out annually since 1979 and are reported to the US Congress.
Numerous human-rights violations last year in the South are recorded especially after the imposition of the controversial emergency law in July, which replaced martial law.
The report highlights the death of Satopa Yusof, an imam at a village mosque in Narathiwat, who apparently told relatives on his deathbed that security officials gunned him down.
Another high-profile case involved the disappearance of Phra Supot Suwanjano, an environmental activist in Chiang Mai. The government refused to comment on either incident.
The authorities were criticised for failing to follow up many disappearances, with 35 cases without a progress report documented.
As in the previous year's report, the US officials criticised the tendency of individuals and the government to target the media with lawsuits. It also mentioned the government's increased censorship in the broadcast media, citing the forced closure of 17 radio stations, including community radio 92.25, which was targeted because of its critical content, the report said.
Websites attacking the government were also regularly shut down by the authorities, the report added. The high-profile US$50 million (Bt1.96 billion) lawsuit against Sondhi Limthongkul, of the Manager Group, by Thaksin was cited as an attempt to tame the media and stifle freedom of expression. The lawsuit was withdrawn last December following intervention by His Majesty the King.
The report commented on the government's effort to eradicate corruption, which it said did "not appear to have been effective" because of the widely reported scandal involving the bomb scanners at the new Suvarnabhumi Airport. Other corruption cases relating to catering services and car park charges were recorded.
Thaksin reacted angrily to last year's State Department report but observers say this year's study is much more severe.