Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Letter to Thai Ambassadors: Human Rights Abuses against Khun Waen, Witness to the Temple Shooting

Respected Ambassadors,

We, the members of the Thai Alliance for Human Rights, a US-based alliance of mostly Thais, are writing to you once again about one of Thailand’s many lese majesty victims. Natthida “Waen” Meewangpa, who is about 40 years old and the mother of two children, has been in jail for three years, and four months, on extremely dubious charges. Her case has been prioritized over about 100 other lese majesty prisoners because a little over a month ago she began to show signs of mental and physical breakdown, including hemianaesthesia (lose of sensation in half of her body), despondency, and hallucinations. The hallucinations could mean she is losing her grip on reality because of the stress of her unjust incarceration and separation from her children, or it could mean that she is being drugged to make her passive. She begged to be bailed out, and because Thai activists were worried for her life (it is not unusual for lese majesty victims to die in jail or to attempt suicide), her bail of about $27,000 was quickly raised in a social media campaign that involved the famous pro-democracy activist Nuttaa “Bow” Mahattana. However, when the activists went to court to pay her bail and free her, they were denied.

We believe the charges are an attempt to silence her calls for justice for 6 people shot dead on the grounds of Wat Prathum, Bangkok, May 19, 2010, during a government crackdown on “Red Shirt” protesters. Waen, who is a nurse, had been in the temple for hours treating the wounded brought in from outside when around 6:00pm shots were fired into the temple from the tracks of a Skytrain above the temple grounds. She became the main witness at the investigation into the incident, testifying against the military.

Waen was forcibly disappeared on March 11, 2015, and taken to a military facility for interrogation. Her phone was, of course immediately confiscated. She says she was beaten and threatened to stop her campaign for justice for the 6 victims of the temple shooting.

After the week-long interrogation, she was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism. She spent more than a year in jail before she was bailed out. But she never even made it home to see her kids because on the way home, she was re-arrested for lese majesty, specifically sending an insulting message about King Bhumibol. It is barbaric that anyone would go to jail for sending an insulting message about royalty. People have the “right to freedom of opinion and expression . . . to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” (Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights) and this freedom extends to the right to criticize a head of state, as recently reiterated by UN experts David Kaye and Michel Forst. However in Waen’s case, these arguments are beside the point, because the message she stands accused of sending was sent 6 days into her interrogation, at which point SHE DID NOT HAVE A PHONE. It had already been taken away by the officials who now accuse her of sending it!

The United Lawyers for Rights & Liberty say that Khun Waen is a victim of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP. That is, lawsuits are brought against her to silence her as a witness to an atrocity by the military. Thai activists trying to free her are using the slogan, “Stand for the Rule of Law.”
The human rights abuses in this case are so many and various that it is hard to know where to start in making this complaint. Natthida “Waen” Meewangpa has

The right to life, liberty, and security of person (Article 3)
No degrading treatment (Article 4)
The right to an effective remedy by competent national tribunals for actions violating fundamental rights (Article 8) [when she demands justice for the victims of the Temple shooting]
The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention (Article 9)
The right to a public hearing (Article 10) [All lese majesty cases are tried in secret]
The right to privacy, including no interference with one’s correspondence, and no attacks on one’s honor and reputation (Article 12) [for instance conspiring to ruin Waen’s credibility as a witness by hacking into her phone and using it to send inflamatory messages]
Respect and protection for the family (Article 16) [Waen is desperate to see her children]
Freedom of opinion and expression; the right to seek, receive, and impart information (Article 19) [For instance, as a witness to a temple shooting.]

Please convey our concerns to the proper authorities.

Thank you for your help,
Ann Norman
Thai Alliance for Human Rights
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