Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Just imagine if Venezuela did this. 

You live in Venezuela, you favorite TV station went off the air, and you think you have problems? That your basic rights are being violated? Well lets keep things in perspective – after all you could be in Thailand.

From last weeks New York Times:

Thai Court Disbands Former Prime Minister’s Political Party

BANGKOK May 30 — A constitutional court on Wednesday banned the political party of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra after finding it guilty of election fraud in a ruling that could throw Thai politics into disarray.

As if its not bad enough that they throw the votes of Thais in the garbage by overthrowing the government that millions of Thais voted into office they outright ban that party and make its existence illegal!!

What’s the big deal you think, can’t they just form a new party? No, they can’t:

The court barred Mr. Thaksin and 110 other executives of the party from participating in politics for five years, removing from the scene some of Thailand’s most powerful politicians.

The prospect of Mr. Thaksin’s return to power and the resurgence of his party has been one of the chief concerns of the country’s military leaders, who ousted him in a nonviolent coup on Sept. 19 while he was abroad.

I guess Antonio Ledezma, Manuel Rosales, Marcel Granier, Maria Corina Machada should feel a little better given that even in spite of all their shenanigans, including coups, they’ve never had their political parties disbanded nor have they been banned from politics.

How can the Thai military junta justify this? Simple, after overthrowing the government and getting rid of the old Constitutional Court they promptly appointed a new Constitutional Court. I know that might not look good but rest assured, the new court is completely independent. Overturning an election is one thing, but the junta knows that it should never, ever mess with the independence of courts.

So lets see what the new “independent” court ruled:

The court ruled that the party, Thai Rak Thai, was guilty of paying small parties to run against it in an election in April 2006 in order to satisfy a requirement for minimum participation.

“The defendant is responsible for upholding democratic ways,” Judge Vichai Chuenchompoonuj said. “It used parliamentary elections only as a means to achieve totalitarian power.”

He added: “It goes to show that the defendant does not believe in the democratic system. It also shows no respect for the rule of law, which is key to the democratic system.”

More broadly, the nine-member court accused Mr. Thaksin of using the party for his own gain and said the party had no ideology beyond its leader’s ambitions.

Well no wonder the military had to overthrow the government – they held parliamentary elections. I’ve always thought participating in parliamentary or legislative elections is a dead give away for dictatorial tendencies. And that is why I’ve always been sure of the opposition’s democratic bonofides – they boycott legislative elections.

Nevertheless, the concept of banning people from politics just because their parties have “no ideology beyond its leader’s ambitions” shouldn’t be taken too far – that would sure put an end to the Venezuelan opposition and Hillary Clinton.

Now, being a little less sarcastic for a moment, human rights organizations must be in a tizzy about this. After all, they didn’t take RCTV losing its license sitting down so I’m sure they would have something to say about political parties being dissolved and people being banned from politics.

So sure of that was I that I promptly went to the Human Rights Watch “Thailand” page and found that they… had absolutely nothing to say about it. That leaves me not knowing what to think. Could it be that the right of wealthy people to own their own television network is a human right but the right of other people to freely organize political parties and participate in politics is not?!?!?! [just as an aside, the military government made it illegal for more than 5 people to congregate for political reasons – the preppies at UCAB and USB should be thankful for what country THEY live in]

Or could it be that Human Rights Watch isn’t the impartial defender of Human Rights it pretends to be – needling “populist” or “leftist” governments over any alleged infractions while looking the other way while right wing, pro-U.S. governments commit much more egregious infractions?

Of course, it could just be that Thailand is an isolated case. Except that its not. From Monday’s Wall Street Journal (page A1):

Army Takeover in Bangladesh Stalls Key Muslim Democracy

Dhaka, Bangladesh – When the Bangladesh army intervened to abort a flawed election in this Muslim nation of 150 million in January, the U.S. and United Nations both offered tacit support for the coup.

Thank God someone stepped in and overthrew the government before a “flawed” election was held. Its bad enough that elections have gotten mucked up in places like Florida, but you sure don’t want it happening in third world countries.

But now the army-installed caretaker government is back-pedalling on its pledge to organize a quick, clean vote and then relinquish authority. And the once-bloodless coup is turning into something more sinister. Since January, an estimated 200,000 people, including hundreds of leading politicians and businessmen, have been jailed under emergency rules that suspend civil rights and outlaw all political activity. According to human-rights groups, scores of others, seized by the troops in the middle of the night, have been tortured to death or summarily executed.

Bangladesh’s new rulers insist the crackdown is needed to reform what international watchdogs such as Transparency International have frequently ranked as the most corrupt nation on Earth.
But critics say the outcome amounts to this: With the support of the U.S. and the international community, what used to be the world’s second-largest Muslim democracy, after Indonesia, has turned into the world’s second-largest military regime, after Pakistan.

This sure sounds pretty bad: the overthrow of a democratically elected government, 200,000 imprisoned, killings – Human Rights Watch must be in an uproar over this, right?

Sadly, in examining their web-page on Bangladesh they don’t seem that concerned about it at all. In fact, they never even acknowledge that there was a coup. In the one article where they tangentially refer to what happened here is what they write:

Bangladesh is in a period of political uncertainty as the country’s caretaker government, tasked with running the country until elections, negotiates with the main political parties over an election date and proposed electoral reform.

Jeepers, the Venezuelan opposition must be kicking itself for not thinking of that phraseology – “There wasn’t a coup on April 11th, there was just a period of political uncertainty”. Personally, I find it rather sad that an organization that claims to be dedicated to human rights is using euphemisms that would make even Orwell cringe.

Clearly Human Rights Watch isn’t all its cracked up to be and obviously it is using some criteria other than how egregious violations of human rights are in determining who to criticize. Given their very distinct and obvious bias I don’t think anyone in Caracas should be losing any sleep over their proclamations on Venezuela.

But there is still hope. Maybe some of the other organizations on this list have spoken up about what is going on in Thailand and Bangladesh. I'm sure if someone just takes the time to look it up they'll find very strongly worded condemnations. Volunteers, anyone?


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