Supreme Court rejects charges related to Deep South torture allegations

The Supreme Court has dismissed charges against a Malay Muslim accused by the National Police Chief for reporting torture at the hands of investigating officers.    

According to the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), a human rights civil society organization, the Supreme Court on 29 September 2015, dismissed charges against Sudeerueman Malae, a Malay Muslim from the southern province of Narathiwat, who was charged in 2009 for alleging that investigating officers had tortured him and other detainees.

The plaintiff in the case was Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, the current chief of the Royal Thai Police and a member of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), who was then a Police Colonel. Pol Gen Chakthip filed charges under Articles 173, 174, and 181 of the Criminal Code against Sudeerueman after he reported the torture.

The Supreme Court’s ruling confirmed the ruling of the Appeal Court which in July 2013 overturned the verdict of the Court of First Instance which had sentenced Sudeerueman to two years’ imprisonment.

Sudeerueman Malae was one of many suspects in the 2004 robbery of a military armoury in Narathiwat that marked the beginning of increased violence in the protracted conflict between the Thai state and Deep South insurgent groups which has led to about 6,500 deaths and many more injuries.   

The robbery occurred on 4 January 2004 when more than 50 armed insurgents stormed the armoury of the Fourth Engineering Battalion at the Narathiwat Rajanakarin Camp and took a large cache of assault rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, pistols, rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition. The attackers killed four Buddhist Thai soldiers.

Sudeerueman and other suspects in the case were arrested and detained in February 2004. When Sudeerueman and other suspects were transferred to Bangkok Remand Prison, they reported to Somchai Neelapaijit, a human rights lawyers who was disappeared shortly afterwards, that they had been tortured to confess by investigators at Than Yong Police Station in Narathiwat on 22 February 2004, but did not specify the individuals who tortured them.

At that time, the current Thai police chief was one of the investigating officers in the case.

Somchai later compiled a report about the torture allegation and submitted it to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). The DSI later sent personnel to verify the torture allegations with the detainees.

During the trial, Pol Gen Chakthip testified to the court that he and his fellow investigators were not involved in torturing the suspects and that the allegations were false and ill-intended.

Pol Gen Chakthip stated that he had been ordered to provide security for cabinet members at a meeting in the northeastern provinces on 22 February 2004 and provided details of his flight itinerary for 20 and 23 February 2004. The Court, however, ruled that from the evidence, it cannot be verified that Pol Gen Chakthip was really present at the cabinet meeting in the northeast because the order concerned the task of providing security for the cabinet, but did not specify that he had to be at the meeting.   

The Supreme Court added that the evidence showed only that Pol Gen Chakthip travelled to the northeast on 20 February 2014, but the date of his return was unknown.

According to the report from the fact-finding committee on the case established under the NACC, Sudeerueman Malae never claimed that Pol Gen Chakthip was involved in torturing him and other suspects during the interrogation process at Than Yong Police Station. In fact, it was the NACC which alleged that Pol Gen Chakthip might be involved in the torture.

The CrCF, which has been monitoring the case, stated that even if Sudeerueman really had named Pol Gen Chakthip as a perpetrator of the alleged torture, he should have been protected during the judicial process instead of being accused by the officer.

In 2010, the NACC concluded that there was no evidence to prove that the suspects in the 2004 armoury robbery case were tortured at the hands of the investigating officers. But the Supreme Court which acquitted Sudeerueman ruled on 29 September 2015 that he and other suspects were tortured by officials.

However, no officials so far have been prosecuted for the alleged torture.   

As for the 2004 armoury robbery case, the prosecutors in the end did not charge Sudeerueman Malae because of insufficient evidence.