Statement on General Prayuth’s Complaint against Robert Amsterdam
On Saturday, August 18, 2012, the Thai-language daily newspaper Matichon reported that the Commander-in Chief of the Royal Thai Army, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, has instructed Lt. Col. Sayan Khunkhaji to submit a complaint for criminal defamation against both Robert Amsterdam and his interpreter. Mr. Amsterdam serves as legal counsel for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the National United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
The complaint is said to be based on the content of a speech that Mr. Amsterdam delivered in Bangkok on May 19, 2012, on the second anniversary of the brutal military crackdown that resulted in the death of ninety-eight people. During that speech, which can be viewed in its entirety here, Mr. Amsterdam denounced the Royal Thai Army for its history of civilian massacres and then criticized the United States government for supplying the weapons and the training the Thai military routinely employs to murder its citizens. Mr. Amsterdam’s words were translated into Thai hence the charges being filed against his interpreter as well. Gen. Prayuth alleges that these comments damaged the reputation of the Royal Thai Army.
The news of the criminal complaint against Mr. Amsterdam and his interpreter comes at the end of a week in which the Royal Thai Army and former Prime Minister Abhisit have publicly threatened the Department of Special Investigations (DSI), which is conducting its own inquiries into the 2010 crackdowns, and lashed out at the press for asking questions about the deployment of snipers to kill civilians in 2010. It is clear that Mr. Abhisit and Gen. Prayuth are growing increasingly desperate in their quest to protect their impunity–in itself a testament to the effectiveness of the work done by Mr. Amsterdam and others.
Mr. Amsterdam stands by his comments and remains committed to the effort to hold senior officials (including Mr. Prayuth and former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva) accountable for the crimes against humanity committed during the unlawful suppression of the Red Shirt rallies in April and May 2010. However, what is certain is that this time, those who murdered civilians to protect their power and privilege will not be able to escape accountability for their crimes.