Thailand 'loses claim' as human-rights leader in Southeast Asia

Thailand 'loses claim' as human-rights leader in Southeast Asia

Thailand appears to have lost its leadership in the Southeast Asian region when it comes to human rights, as many people's rights have been suspended for speaking against the May 22 coup, rights expert Sriprapha Petcharamesree has said.

Sriprapha previously represented Thailand at the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

"Whatever we say carries less weight now," she said referring to the community of Thai human-rights activists, of which she is a leading member.

"It's like we are preaching about something that doesn't truly exist in Thailand."

Sriprapha has called on AICHR to speak out about the declining state of human rights in Thailand and to raise concerns, adding that the Thai public expected to hear voices of concern from AICHR, which is based in Jakarta, Indonesia.

"At present, there's no political space for people to express [differing political] opinions," Sriprapha, who also lectures in human rights at Mahidol University, said.

Some people in neighbouring countries also were using the military coup in Thailand to justify and support the limitation on basic civil liberty in their own countries, she said, claiming the coup was necessary in order to put a halt to endless street protests.

"[The Thai coup] justifies the lack of political space and lack of freedom of expression in their countries," she pointed out, adding that and since it "appears" that many Thai citizens have welcomed the coup, such limits on civil rights could occur elsewhere too.

On the other hand, Sriprapha said, Thailand was imitating the military rules of some neighbouring countries by filling the government with men in uniform, as well as marking out a large chunk of the National Legislative Assembly for the military.

" 'If the neighbours can do it, why can't we'? Or so goes the argument," said Sriprapha.

"It has already become a norm for the region. That's scary."

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