News in brief – 22 April 2016 (AM) Geneva

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Military's arbitrary arrests in Thailand are "chilling", says UN rights chief

The Thai military's deeping role in curbing dissent in Thailand ahead of a vote on a new constitution is having a "chilling effect" on the country, the UN's human rights chief has warned.

In a statement on Friday, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that critics of the draft Constitution have been arrested, detained and harassed since it was made public at the end of March.

These include former government minister Watana Muangsook, who was detained by the military over remarks he posted on social media criticizing the draft.

He was released on Thursday.

Here's Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR:

"The key role in the military having a bigger role in civilian administration is that there is a lack of accountability. For example they are able to arrest and detain people without a warrant and without judicial oversight. Now sometimes these people are released soon afterwards, but that doesn't diminish the chilling effect of these arrests on the expression of free assembly, on freedom expression, on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights."

Since the military coup of 2014, the Thai government has strengthened the role of the military in policy-making and law enforcement after years of political upheaval and violent protests.

DRC signs up to US$ 200 million deal to protect rainforest

A major boost has been given to efforts to protect the world's second largest tropical rainforest, thanks to a US$ 200 million deal between by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and international partners.

The deal, which was wrapped up at the UN in Geneva on Friday, aims to address forest degradation in the country and promote sustainable development.

It's part of the UN-led Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) and the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation declaration, known as REDD+.

Here's Priya Gajraj from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), speaking from Goma in the DRC:

"It's also important because it's the first letter of intent signed between CAFI and a country of the central African region and the largest one ever concluded on the REDD+ in Africa, so it's also sending an important signal."

Similar deals have been signed in recent years with Brazil and Indonesia.

Search begins for new global health agency chief

And finally, the World Health Organization has announced that the search has begun for a new director-general.

The current head of the UN agency, Margaret Chan, is due to step down in 2017, after completing her second five-year term.

Under a reformed election process, member states have until 22 September to nominate their candidates.

In January next year the short-list of five individuals will be whittled down to three.

The winning candidate will be picked at the World Health Assembly in May and take office in July.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 2’46″



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