(Bangkok, 20 October) Yesterday in Bangkok, leading peace, environmental and democracy activists launched the “Vote for Peace” campaign calling o­n people in Thailand and across the world to elect leaders that are “pro peace.” The campaign is targeting the upcoming US presidential election but is also aiming to get Thais to “vote for peace” in their own national election due in the first half of 2005.

San Hathirat of the Heroes of Democracy Foundation said that the US is the source of most of the conflicts in the world today but also called o­n the Thai people to vote for a government that is thinking of peace. It is a remark directed at Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who has been an uncritical supporter of the US invasion of Iraq and whose term in office has been marked by growing violence and human rights abuses in traditionally peaceful Thailand.

“There has been a loss of freedom and human rights in countries allied with the US ‘war o­n terror’,” said independent Senator Kraisak Choonhavan. “The problems in the South are a direct result of the war o­n terror.” Southern Thailand, home to a majority of Muslims, has experienced growing violence in the past six months.

“The situation in the South of Thailand is unprecedented,” said Senator Kraisak. “We have never seen violence like this: Muslims killing Buddhists, Buddhists killing Muslims. This is the influence of the war o­n terror.”  

Thailand has been under intense scrutiny from local and international human rights organisations following the extra-judicial killings of at least 2,500 people in the six-month “war o­n drugs” in early 2003. Prime Minister Thaksin has been unmoved by criticisms from the Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission and a UN Special Rapporteur. In fact, Thaksin is so pleased with the outcome of the war o­n drugs that he has promised to launch a new “offensive”.

Senator Kraisak also referred to Thailand’s policies of the 1960s and 70s when it was closely allied with the US during the Vietnam War. “We have accommodated warmongers in the 60s and 70s,” he said. “Millions of people were killed because of this and the Thai people now do not want war. We have a pacifist culture that is being overcome by business interests and government to government interests.”

Dr Weng Tojirakarn, Chairman of the Democracy Federation, emphasised the need for peaceful solutions to conflicts. “The whole world is in a situation of war,” he said. “But if you use war to solve a problem, you are just creating a bigger war.” Dr Wang said that people are the most important factor in every country, citing the example of Spain where “the people can change a brutal government to a peaceful o­ne.”

Jiragorn Gajaseni from Greenpeace Southeast Asia called o­n US citizens living in Thailand, the US Chamber of Commerce and transnational corporations to be part of the “Vote for Peace” campaign. 

A “Vote for World Peace” rally will be held o­n 30th October 2004, 4 pm at Suan Santi-chaiprakarn, Bangkok.

For more information o­n the campaign, visit: www.voteforworldpeace.org