Following a visit to Thailand by U.S. President Barack Obama in which he expressed support for the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, Red Shirt groups are announcing plans to monitor and expose the financial supporters of an upcoming march against democracy by an extremist group backed by the Democrat Party.
According to Robert Amsterdam, lawyer to the Red Shirt group United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), this evidence gathering will also extend to any acts of violence, threats of violence and any other criminal enterprise associated with the anti-democratic extremists and its backers.
WASHINGTON DC, 19 September 2012 – Counsel acting on behalf of Thailand’s Red Shirt pro-democracy movement has denounced the conclusions of a new report into the 2010 killings of protesters, saying that it is counterproductive and provocative because the victims will refuse to accept anything less than accountability.
“All of us who were there know what happened, and this report, which mostly absolves the key players of any responsibility, defiles the dead and wounded,” said Robert Amsterdam, international counsel to the United National Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as the Red Shirts. “The victims will not accept this report, and will not accept the false equivalence the report attempts to draw between an army firing upon unarmed protesters and their civic right to protest for democracy against a coup-appointed government.”
Dear General Prayuth,
Whilst the news that you have instructed one of your subordinates to file a criminal defamation complaint against myself and my interpreter may come as a shock to many, for me it is no real surprise. For too long those afraid of democracy and truth in Thailand have employed its judicial system as an instrument to silence and intimidate critics. However, I view my role to work on behalf of the victims of one of the worst incidents of state violence in memory as far too important and I won’t be cowed. You and your allies in the Democrat Party should be under no illusion – I will persist in pursuing accountability for the events of 2010.
In reading your recent comments to the press, I was struck by your stated wish to “protect the reputation of everyone in the army.” Let me state that I believe that the majority of the people in the Thai Army are decent, honest, and brave young men, some of whom put their lives at risk every day in the South and elsewhere. Their reputations are no doubt worth protecting and upholding.
The question I would like to put to you, however, is this: just who is responsible for damaging the reputation of the thousands of honorable and patriotic soldiers who serve in the Royal Thai Army? I would submit to you that these men’s reputations are reduced in far greater measure by the conduct for which their superiors have been known for decades, and the impunity they have enjoyed throughout this time, than by the words of those who seek to hold their superiors accountable for, among other things, orders that unleashed snipers and marksmen on civilians. It is precisely because I have the utmost respect for most of Thailand’s soldiers that I resent your attempt to hide behind them in order to defend the impunity of the powerful.
If you were serious about upholding your soldiers’ reputation, you would use your remaining time as Commander-in-Chief not to make excuses for criminal behavior, but to remake the Royal Thai Army into an institution where those who abuse human rights are held to account. Submitting to a proper investigation in which the facts are examined fairly, without regard for the status of the perpetrators, by investigators who cannot be bullied into “apologizing” to you for their findings, would be a useful first step. Such an open and transparent investigation would also include finding out the cause of deaths of the soldiers at Kok Wua and elsewhere. Surely you wouldn’t refuse the opportunity of giving the families of the soldiers who died in 2010 an opportunity to receive justice on par with all other victims?
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.
On July 31, 2012 the blog “Legal Times” reported that Amsterdam & Partners submitted documents indicating that the firm had ceased lobbying activities on behalf of Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra in the United States. Unfortunately the report was mistaken by some to mean that Amsterdam & Partners has ceased all advocacy on behalf of Dr. Thaksin and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). This is not the case, as the documents in question only refer to lobbying activities before officials of the United States government. Such activities constitute a minuscule portion of the work the firm has done on behalf of Dr. Thaksin in the past two and a half years, as the firm has concentrated on forms of advocacy and legal representation that do not qualify as lobbying under US law.
Amsterdam & Partners LLP continues to be retained by Dr. Thaksin for the purposes of public advocacy and legal representation. The firm’s activities on behalf of Dr. Thaksin and the UDD carry on as normal.
THE HAGUE, 28 June, 2010 – This week a delegation of Thai citizens held preliminary meetings with prosecutors of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands to discuss the violent military crackdown against protesters in 2010 which led to more than 90 deaths.
Dr. Thongchai Winichakul, a professor of history based at the University of Wisconsin, led the delegation along with numerous witnesses and survivors to present before the ICC during this meeting. In a letter delivered to prosecutors ahead of the meeting, Dr. Winichakul emphasized the historical importance that the court could make in Thailand, where coups and violence against civilians by the military has occurred repeatedly throughout history.
“Among the subjects I study include the atrocities in 1973, 1976, and 1992, and the culture of impunity in Thailand. I have followed the political situation in Thailand closely since the coup in 2006, especially the bloodshed in April-May 2010 and its aftermath,” Dr. Winichakul wrote in his letter. “I would like to request that the ICC can help bring the end to this repeated impunity – thereby the repeated killings of civilians — by investigating into the 2010 killings and bringing the case to the International Criminal Court.”
The visit to The Hague follows upon a two-year campaign to raise awareness of the alleged crimes against humanity committed by the former government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Although Thailand has not ratified the Rome Statute, it was proven that Prime Minister Abhisit is a British subject, and therefore is under the court’s jurisdiction, argues the legal team on behalf of the Red Shirt victims.
“The meetings held with the ICC were productive, and we will continue to comply with all normal protocol to move forward through the process,” said international lawyer Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Partners LLP, who serves as international defense counsel to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), a group popularly known as the Red Shirts. “This crucial meeting takes place within a very tense context. Given the ongoing attempts by minority groups to yet again forcefully remove a democratically elected party in an upcoming constitutional court decision, the prospect of renewed violence and instability is a matter of grave concern for the international community, and makes more relevant our request before the ICC.”
Further information on this case, including a full copy of Dr. Winichakul’s letter, can be found at http://www.robertamsterdam.com/thailand.
The past week has seen a troubling escalation in the frequency with which a possible military coup is discussed in Thailand. Leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have called openly for the military to stage a coup. Military generals are quoted in news reports as setting conditions that the government must live by to avoid a coup. The Bangkok media is reporting results of polls that give the Establishment a running tally of the people’s willingness to accept another coup.
Each of these developments would be noteworthy in its own right, but today’s statements by a member of the opposition in parliament have ratcheted up the threat even further. In today’s issue of Matichon, Democrat Party member of parliament Thepthai Senpong, formerly Abhisit Vejjajiva’s personal spokesman, is reported as stating that it is for the government to decide whether a coup will take place, indicating that the administration can avoid a coup simply by staying away from reforming the lese majeste laws, amending the Ministry of Defense Administration Act, or changing the constitution. Even for Thailand, it is extraordinary to hear a member of parliament publicly threaten an elected government with a military coup, which most countries consider an act of treason, for pursuing reforms through a process governed by the constitution (a constitution written by and for the generals themselves, no less). Unfortunately such is the arrogance of Thailand’s so-called “Democrats.”
Five years ago similar threats of a coup were ignored by the international community; when the coup eventually took place, Thai civil society organizations and international NGOs were complacent when not openly supportive. We hope that foreign governments, civil society partners, and human rights groups operating in Thailand have learned the lessons of the 2006 coup, and urge them to unequivocally oppose a repeat of such illegal and anti-democratic acts.
–Robert Amsterdam, counsel to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship
The following press release was distributed via wire service today:
During a visit to Thailand this week to both meet with political prisoners and to press for accountability for the 2010 killings of protesters, international lawyer Robert Amsterdam responded to threats of arrest issued by members of the recently ousted Democrat Party.
According to reports in the media, Democrat MP Watchara Phetthong is demanding that the police place Mr. Amsterdam under arrest. This is in response to a complaint Mr. Watchara filed alleging a violation by Mr. Amsterdam of Thailand’s draconian lese majeste law which occurred in the publication of a white paper detailing the Army’s responsibility in the 2010 massacre of Red Shirt protesters in Bangkok.
“It is very disappointing that instead of open, civil debate, members of the Democrat Party prefer to threaten jail,” said Mr. Amsterdam. “In the past we have exhaustively shown that Mr. Watchara’s allegations are groundless, and this inappropriate abuse of the law to protect himself and his party from accountability is gravely offensive.”
Amsterdam continued: “These are serious matters which require serious dialogue between all parties. The last thing that the Thai people need is to feel frightened and intimidated when they are speaking out about what happened on the streets of Bangkok in April and May 2010. As far as I know, there is no law in Thailand against requesting justice and urging accountability of the Army.”
Robert Amsterdam is a founding partner of the law firm Amsterdam & Peroff LLP, and serves as counsel to the former Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra and members of the United National Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). Further information on this case can be found at http://www.robertamsterdam.com/thailand.
In the week since Thailand’s Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s 737 airplane was seized by the German authorities, there have been numerous rumor-based attempts to link me directly to this matter, with claims that I played some role in the aircraft being impounded.
Let me be completely unequivocal on this matter – such fabricated allegations are utterly absurd and have no basis in fact. This kind of rumor-mongering is the product of the over-active imaginations of those who seem unable to let go of the ‘old politics’ that have dominated Thailand since 2006. These persons, who feel far more comfortable with top-down governance against the democratic will of the people, are the same people who are used to dwelling in the darkest gutters of Thai politics, preferring to rely on falsity and fabrication to smear and defame others rather than deal with evidence-based truths.
Tied in the polls with a week to go before the election, President Jimmy Carter and challenger Ronald Reagan met in Cleveland for the only televised debate of the 1980 campaign featuring both major-party candidates. The two men held their own for ninety minutes, in a debate that highlighted their differences and respective strengths— Carter’s superior command of policy and Reagan’s celebrated communication skills. It was only in his one-minute closing statement that Reagan delivered the knockout punch sometimes credited for his landslide victory a week later. Reagan asked a disarmingly simple question:
Next Tuesday is Election Day. Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls, will stand there in the polling place and make a decision. I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we’re as strong as we were four years ago? And if you answer all of those questions yes, why then, I think your choice is very obvious as to whom you will vote for. If you don’t agree, if you don’t think that this course that we’ve been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest another choice that you have.