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September 7, 2010

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OPEN LETTER: AN APPEAL FOR THE EXPULSION OF THAILAND’S DEMOCRAT PARTY FROM THE LIBERAL INTERNATIONAL

Mr. Hans van Baalen, MEP
President of the Liberal International
cc: The Bureau of the Liberal International, International Officers of the Liberal International’s Full Members and Observer Members.

London, 30 August 2010

OPEN LETTER: AN APPEAL FOR THE EXPULSION OF THAILAND’S DEMOCRAT PARTY FROM THE LIBERAL INTERNATIONAL

The Honorable Hans van Baalen,

The Liberal International requires member organizations to accept the principles spelled out in the 1947 Liberal Manifesto, the 1967 Declaration of Oxford, and the 1981 Liberal Appeal of Rome. Based on the events of the past several years, it is safe to say that Thailand’s Democrat Party — currently a Full Member of the Liberal International ­—neither abides by, nor really believes in, a single one of these principles. We urge the Liberal International to expel the Democrat Party based on the plentiful evidence attesting to its illiberal conduct and illiberal ideology.

Since coming to power in December 2008, thanks to a court decision that overturned the result of an election held a year earlier, the Democrat Party has launched an all-out assault on democracy, freedom of speech, civil/political rights, and the protection of ethnic minorities in Thailand:

First, the Democrat administration has systematically stifled freedom of expression. It has done so by:

  1. Persecuting opponents through repressive legislation such as Thailand’s draconian le?se majeste? laws and the Computer Crimes Act. The year 2009 saw a record number of prosecutions for crimes of conscience;
  2. Censoring virtually every source of alternative information, including the opposition’s TV station, dozens of community radios, and as many as 50,000 websites that were blocked or shut down by the authorities;

Second, the Democrat administration has conducted a campaign of violence and extra-judicial executions against the opposition, resulting in the death of almost a hundred unarmed protesters and the injury of approximately two thousand people. As Reporters Without Borders (RSF) put it, during the recent protests staged by Thailand’s “Red Shirt” movement, the Democrat administration gave the Royal Thai Army a “license to kill” demonstrators, which the security forces used to “run roughshod over international law and Thai legislation protecting civilians.”

Third, as Human Rights Watch noted, the Democrat administration has “continually undermined respect for human rights and due process of law.” Most recently, it has invoked dictatorial powers and suspended most political/civil rights guaranteed by the constitution through the unlawful use of the State of Emergency, which marks the wholesale subversion of the rule of law absent the formal declaration of a coup. The Thailand representative for Amnesty International recently stated that the Emergency Decree serves the government’s purpose of “suppressing legal and lawful dissent.”

Fourth, the Democrat administration has distinguished itself for its unwillingness to support the rights of ethnic minorities persecuted in neighboring countries. In early 2009, its policy resulted in the death of up to 500 Rohingya refugees among the thousands whom the Thai military pushed out to see on barges with no engines and navigational equipment. In violation of customary international law, moreover, in 2009 the Democrat administration has deported 4000 Hmong asylum-seekers back to Laos, where they face political persecution and torture. In response to international criticism, Democrat Member of Parliament Kraisak Choonhavan boasted that Thailand has no obligation to act in accordance with the procedures mandated by the UNHCR, as the country is not a party to any international treaty protecting the rights of refugees.

Fifth, the Democrat administration has close linkages (both organizationally and ideologically) with the so-called “People’s Alliance for Democracy,” the movement responsible for the three-month occupation of the Government House, the weeklong seizure of Suvarnabhumi International Airport, and the repeated provocations that have brought Thailand on the brink of war with Cambodia in several instances since 2008. Aside from sharing its ultra-nationalist, anti-democratic ideology, several Democrat Party officials like Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya are leaders of the PAD. Thanks to the Democrat administration, the PAD has enjoyed complete impunity for the campaign of violence it has conducted in its attempt to overthrow the previous, democratically elected government.

It is understandable that the Liberal International would tolerate some “diversity” in its members’ application of liberal principles, especially as it continues its outreach to countries where liberal democracy has yet to fully take hold. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that Thailand’s Democratic Party does not embody “liberalism with Thai characteristics;” it is rather the main vehicle for illiberal policies and ideals in Thailand.

In the Democrat Party, the Liberal International has a member that owes its ascendance to the repeated subversion of democracy, relies on the support it receives from the military and other unelected institutions to consolidate its power, and steadfastly refuses to accept the legitimacy of the electoral process. In the Democrat Party, the Liberal International has a member that presided over the institution of the harshest censorship regime Thailand has witnessed in recent memory, systematically persecutes its opponents through the abuse of legislation sanctioning crimes of conscience, and governs with an utter disregard for the political/civil rights of its citizens. In the Democrat Party, the Liberal International has a member that habitually resorts to xenophobic language to dehumanize opponents or justify the oppression of ethnic minorities and tolerates its leaders’ involvement in a violent, quasi-fascist organization like the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Far from being a “liberal” party, Thailand’s Democrat Party is the embodiment of anti-democratic policies and reactionary ideologies that genuine liberal parties in Europe and elsewhere have spent the better part of two centuries fighting against. We trust that the Liberal International is not ready to sacrifice any of its history on a political party that has long been “democratic” in name only.

The twenty-three-page brief we have enclosed to this letter documents the Democrat Party’s illiberal conduct as well as the markedly illiberal character of its ideas. Based on this extensive body of evidence, we urge the Liberal International to expel Thailand’s Democrat Party. The matter is of the utmost urgency because the actions of the Democrat Party, which are drawing the sharp condemnation of virtually every major international human rights group, threaten to cause irreparable harm to the Liberal International’s ongoing campaign to promote liberal values around the world. In addition, because the Democrat Party’s effort to quash every form of organized opposition to its government is still underway, international pressure is crucial to restoring a semblance of liberal democracy in Thailand.

In a recent report authored by a former Australian diplomat, Chatham House suggests that the international community should apply pressure on the Thai government to achieve reconciliation through a more bilateral process that requires the end of emergency rule, the end of the systematic repression of opposition voices, and eventually elections. The Liberal International is one among the few international organizations that have some leverage over the Democrat Party. Making use of such leverage may go a long way towards promoting liberal values in a country where liberal democracy is now in a state of disrepair.

4 Comments
  1. Octavian
    Sep 8 2010

    I hope you succeed in this. Good luck.

  2. Rich
    Sep 11 2010

    Yes, I wish you luck as well, The Abhisit government and its backers the Palace and armed forces is truly loathsome and will likely precipitate a civil war if not stopped.

    Many people believe that a civil war will erupt anyway as soon as the old boy dies, since the moronically propagandised Thais will suddenly lose their sense of identity (and as we know, nature abhors a vacuum).

    Even though it is my view that the full responsibility for what Thailand has become properly lies with the man at the very top, it is clear that the (USA instigated and nurtured) multi-decade propaganda campaigns in Thailand will mean that most Thais will find it easier to blame the wife instead. The whole barrel of apples in that house is rotten.

    With any luck, democracy will be re-instated before the old boy drops off.

  3. Sep 12 2010

    The stance the new UK coalition goverment adopts regarding the “Bangkok Massacre” and continued human rights abuses by Abhisit Vejjajiva’s military backed coalition is critical.A test of moral courage against business interests.Let us hope the silence shown by UK Liberal Democrats so far does not last too long and they make the right decision.

  4. xredest
    Sep 13 2010

    I’ve learned that the Liberal International ignored the massacre since April 10 till the end of May 19.
    I wish they may consider your open letter and hear the reason now.

Comments are closed.