On 10 October 2014, the independent online media outlet Prachatai reported on three instances of torture of persons held in military and police custody which have taken place since the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in Thailand (Read the entire report by Prachatai in English here
and in Thai here
). The three persons -- Chatchawan Prabbamrung, Kittisak Soomsri, and Bancha Kodphuthorn – were arrested by the military and police and subjected to physical and mental torture including beating, electric shock, mock death, and threats of violence. It is the view of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that these are not isolated instances, but rather coupled with other accounts of torture since the coup, including that of Kritsuda Khunasen (AHRC-STM-151-2014
), indicate a regularization of the already-entrenched practice of torture by the Thai state security forces. The AHRC calls for an independent, transparent investigation into the allegations of torture made by these three persons and a broad investigation into the conditions of detention of all those detained since the coup.
Chatchawan Prabbamrung, age 45, is a refrigeration mechanic who was arrested by soldiers on 6 July. He was held for nine days before charges were filed against him on 15 July which included premeditated murder, bombing to cause injury, possession of illegal explosives, and carrying explosives in a public place. He has been accused of shooting M-79 grenades into a Big C superstore and killing two children on 24 February during the protests of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. Prachatai reported that he alleged that, “About 50 military officers with weapons captured Chatchawan and his wife at an intersection in northern Chiang Mai Province and took them into two different vans. While traveling in the van, the couple were blindfolded and Chatchawan was threatened to confess, otherwise his wife would ‘not be safe.’ On arrival at an unknown destination, the officers tied his hands behind his back. Two men who wore masks looking like animals beat him for almost four hours. He was later brought into a basement room. In the room, an electric wire wrapped in absorbent cotton was tied to his genitals while another wire was inserted into his anus. The officer splashed water at him and switched on the electricity. When he screamed with pain, the officer covered his head with a plastic bag, suffocating him. An officer once put a pistol into his mouth. This was done to force him to answer where he hid the weapons. ” Prachatai noted that Chatchawan’s wife was also detained for several days and then released. She was not physically harmed, but was held in solitary confinement in a room without windows.
Kittisak Soomsri, age 45, is an employee of the Vocational Education Commission who was arrested on 5 September. He was held for six days before charges were filed against him on 11 September which included the possession and discharge of illegal weapons and carrying weapons in a public place as one of the so-called “men in black” who committed violent acts during the April-May 2010 protests. Prachatai reported that he alleged that, “Three men captured him at his office without court arrest warrant. They also threatened his wife not to file a police complaint, otherwise the entire family would “not be safe”. He was then detained at an unknown place. The interrogation started on the first night. A bag was used to cover his head so that he could not see the face of the interrogator. During the interrogation, he was hit on the head and mouth several times. Two men sat on his stomach and legs. At bedtime, the blindfold was taken off. He was handcuffed all the time, whenever he ate, slept or went to the bathroom. These torture methods were intended to have him confess to committing the crime on 10 April 2010 and implicating others. He confessed the morning after because he did not want to be tortured any more.” On 14 October, Kittisak and four other persons accused of being “men in black” (including one woman), wrote a letter to the attorney general recanting their confessions. The four men all alleged that they were tortured to confess and all five of the accused were not permitted to contact either their families or a lawyer following their arrests (This letter can be read in Thai on Prachatai here
Bancha Kodphuthorn, age 28, is a construction worker who was arrested on 22 July by police and soldiers. He was held for one night before robbery charges were filed against him on 23 July. Prachatai reported that he alleged that, “During the night of 22 July, several military and police officers raided his friend’s house where he was visiting. Bancha and the house owner were detained in a car and blindfolded so they did not know where they were taken. At the unknown destination, still blindfolded, he was kicked and slapped several times. When he answered that he did not know, they beat him again. After an hour of beating, he was pushed into a hole in the ground. The officers filled the hole with soil until the level reached his neck. Then he was hit with a gun. After half an hour in the hole, he was put onto the ground and beaten overnight until the morning of the next day. The torture was intended to force him to name members of a drug trafficking gang.”
The Government of Thailand acceded to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment (CAT) on 2 October 2007. As a state party to the CAT, Thailand is obligated to take action to prevent torture, hold perpetrators to account, and provide redress and protection to victims of torture. The AHRC has noted that the government of Thailand has consistently failed to fulfil its obligations under the convention. Rather than prosecuting torturers, it has instead pursued the victims of torture who dare to speak out, such as in the criminal prosecution of Suderueman Maleh, a survivor of torture in southern Thailand, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2011 after he brought a torture complaint against a police officer who was later cleared of responsibility (AHRC-STM-103-2011
Within the context of these three cases, the AHRC would like to highlight the obligations to investigate complaints of torture stipulated by the CAT. Article 12 prescribes that, “Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” Article 13 further notes that, “Each State Party shall ensure that any individual who alleges he has been subjected to torture in any territory under its jurisdiction has the right to complain to, and to have his case promptly and impartially examined by, its competent authorities. Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given.”
Since the declaration of martial law on 20 May 2014 and the coup on 22 May 2014, the junta has repeatedly cited vague threats to national security and an equally vague need for “reform” as the reasons to restrict the rights and freedoms of the people. None of these reasons are a justification for Thailand to derogate from its responsibilities as a state party to the CAT. In addition, the military junta has used both martial law and a series of additional orders to arbitrarily detain citizens, restrict the press, criminalize public protest, and severely restrict open public discussion of politics, all of which makes the redress of torture more difficult for victims and survivors.
The Asian Human Rights Commission unequivocally condemns the coup in the strongest terms and wishes to express grave concern about the continued decline of human rights protections after four and a half months of rule by the National Council for Peace and Order. The AHRC calls for an independent, transparent investigation into the allegations of torture made by Chatchawan Prabbamrung, Kittisak Soomsri, and Bancha Kodphuthorn and an investigation into the conditions of detention of all those detained since the coup. Without doing so, the NCPO will only continue to institutionalise a regime founded on the violation, rather than protection, of principles of human rights and the rule of law.