Statement: War Crimes Expert Joins Investigation of Bangkok Deaths

The following is the latest press release on our firm’s work in Thailand.


BANGKOK, May 31, 2010: International war crimes expert Professor GJ Alexander Knoops has joined the international legal team investigating the Thai Government’s killing of 80 pro-democracy demonstrators and onlookers in Bangkok in May and April, the investigation’s leader, international lawyer Robert Amsterdam announced today.

Six of the bodies were found in a “safe haven” temple.

Professor Knoops, of Knoops & Partners, is a world authority on war crimes, state crimes against humanity and genocide. He is working on cases before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Special Court for Sierra-Leone, established by the United Nations and the Government of Sierra-Leone to “try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996”.

Amsterdam and Knoops have collaborated for many years and published a seminal article on Russia as a Dual State in 2006 in the Fordham International Law Journal. “Professor Knoops is a world authority on war crimes and international criminal law and critical to this investigation,” Mr Amsterdam said.

Former Thai Prime Minister Dr Thaksin Shinawatra has hired Mr Amsterdam to investigate the killings and government breaches of international human rights and laws.

Dr Shinawatra was elected Prime Minister in 2001, scoring a landslide victory. He became the first Prime Minister in Thai history to serve a full term and introduced policies to alleviate rural poverty, including universal health care. His re-election in 2005 had the highest voter turnout in Thai history. A military coup on September 19, 2006 – while Dr Shinawatra was overseas – took control of the country and banned Dr Shinawatra’s party and MPs. People in Thailand’s north and north east have been fighting for the restoration of democracy and inclusive elections ever since. They took their protest to central Bangkok in April this year.

On several occasions in April and May, the Thai Government opened fire with live ammunition on the pro-democracy demonstration, killing at least 80 people, including onlookers and at least one foreign journalist, and injuring more than 1,000. Since May 19, the government’s military has arrested at least 140 members and supporters of the pro-democracy Red Shirts and its United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) party. At least one Australian citizen, Conor Purcell, 30, and one British citizen, Jeff Savage, 48, have been arrested.

“The Thai junta’s crackdown against its own people has not stopped,” Mr Amsterdam said. “At least 140 people have been arrested. Most have been held for more than a week without charge and have been denied access to a lawyer, in breach of basic human rights and international law. The military-backed Abhisit regime is flagrantly breaching its obligations as a member of the international community and the United Nations Human Rights Council. It is thumbing its nose to the international community and trampling on the rights of its people.”

Mr Amsterdam and Professor Knoops are, in part, assisting the UDD and Red Shirts’ legal counsel in Bangkok and Thailand’s north. The Thai-based legal team has learned that:

  • At least 140 members and supporters of the Red Shirts have been arrested and are being detained, most without charge.
  • One of the UDD leaders is being held in a military base in Prachuabkeereekan, 200km south of Bangkok. A prominent supporter, an academic, is being held in a military base in Saraburi, 200km north east of Bangkok. (The legal team is not releasing their names for fear they may be singled out for harsher treatment.) It is believed that the remaining 140 are being held in police stations across Bangkok and the north and north east, but there exact location is not known.
  • Many of the 140 detainees have been denied access to a lawyer, breaching international laws.
  • A further 50 people arrested in the days leading up to the crackdown on May 19 have been denied due process of law. Many of them have been brought before the courts, faced a summary trial, without access to a lawyer, and were sentenced to 18 months’ jail. The Thai-based legal team will appeal.

Mr Amsterdam said the Thai military’s use of its weapons was a gross violation of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials of 1990. The principles were adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in September 1990.