Thai authorities should immediately disclose the whereabouts of Thanakorn Siripaiboon, a critic of Thailand’s junta who has reportedly been held in secret military custody since December 8, 2015, Human Rights Watch said today.
On December 8, soldiers and police arrested Thanakorn, a 27-year-old factory worker, at his house in Samutprakarn province’s Muang district and took him for questioning about alleged sedition and lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) at an undisclosed location. Since then, the police, the military, and the corrections department have all denied knowledge of Thanakorn’s whereabouts to his family and lawyers, raising grave concerns for his safety.
“Thanakorn’s secret detention should set off flashing red lights – especially since the Thai authorities failed to resolve two recent deaths of detainees in military custody,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Thailand’s junta has increasingly flouted international legal protections by holding civilian detainees incommunicado in military camps.”
Thanakorn was arrested for sharing Facebook infographics alleging that Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha and other members of the ruling junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), committed corruption in the Rajabhakti Park project. Rajabhakti Park, a newly built park on army land that honors Thailand’s monarchy, has been plagued by reports of misuse of funds.
Thanakorn faces charges of violating the Computer Crime Act and section 116 of the penal code – the equivalent of sedition. He was also accused of committing lese majeste under section 112 of the penal code for giving a “Like” to an image on Facebook that the authorities consider offensive to the monarchy.
According to a media interview on December 9 by Maj. Gen. Wicharn Jodtaeng, chief of the NCPO’s Legal Office, Thanakorn was initially taken to the Police Technology Crime Suppression Division before being held in custody at an undisclosed military camp for further inquiry. Samutprakarn province police told Thanakorn’s parents that he was held at the 11th Army Circle military base. But his family and lawyers from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights could not get permission to visit him or receive formal confirmation that he was actually detained there.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised serious concerns regarding secret military detention in Thailand. The risk of enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment significantly increases when detainees are held incommunicado in military detention. Enforced disappearances are defined under international law as the arrest or detention of a person by state officials or their agents followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty, or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts. Enforced disappearances violate a range of fundamental human rights protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a party, including prohibitions against arbitrary arrest and detention; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and extrajudicial execution.
Since the May 2014 coup, the NCPO has detained hundreds of politicians, activists, journalists, and people they accuse of supporting the deposed government, disrespecting or offending the monarchy, or being involved in anti-junta protests and activities. Many of these people have been held incommunicado in military camps where they have been interrogated without safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment.
“The Thai government should put to rest fears that Thanakorn has been forcibly disappeared by immediately disclosing his location and allowing his family and lawyers access,” Adams said. “The United Nations human rights agency and concerned governments should press General Prayut to end secret detentions and provide a full accounting of detainee treatment in military custody.”