Thai soldier allegedly dies from ill-treatment during training

The mother and wife of a soldier who allegedly died from ill-treatment during military training have filed a civil lawsuit against the Royal Thai Army.

At the Civil Court on Ratchadaphisek Road, Bangkok, on Monday, 6 June 2016, Wan Thongdinok, the mother of Sub Lt Sanan Thongdinok, together with Thanyarat Wannasathit, Sanan’s wife, filed a charge against the Royal Thai Army under the 1996 Act on Liability of Abuse of Officials over the death of Sub Lt Sanan. 

According to the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), an advocacy group promoting human rights and cultural diversity, Sub Lt Sanan Thongdinok drowned to death on 6 June 2015 during swimming training which was part of the King’s Guard Regiment Course.

He was forced to swim back and forth many times by trainers at the 1st Infantry Regiment King’s Own Guard in Bangkok until he became too tired and drowned before trainers could rescue him, CrCF reported.

In the case file submitted to the court, the family of Sanan points out that his death is a direct result of abuse by military officers responsible for the training.

According to Preeda Nakphew, lawyer from the CrCF, although the King’s Guard Regiment Course is known for its difficulty, Sanan was quite a skilled swimmer before he joined the training. Therefore, his death is likely to result from abuse by military trainers.

The lawyer added that it is also impossible that the trainers could not rescue him in time because there was more than one trainer during the training together with at least 50 participants.

Thanyarat, the wife of the late soldier, pointed out that she has submitted a complaint on the case to many relevant public agencies, but she has not received any reply from them.    

The Civil Court accepted the suit and will hold a hearing on the accusation on 4 July 2016.

Allegations of ill-treatment and torture of military draftees and soldiers in Thai military bases are not new.

On 31 May 2016, the Civil Court dismissed a case filed against the Defence Ministry, the Royal Thai Army and the Prime Minister's Office over the death of Somchai Si-ueangdoi, a military private from Chiang Mai, who was allegedly tortured by other soldiers shortly before his death.

The Civil Court ruled that according to the autopsy report from the Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital, the late private died from flu and a lung infection and there was no severe physical injury on his body.   

In early April 2016, Private Songtham Mutmat, 23, from Phayak Military Camp in Bannang Sata District of the restive Deep South Province of Yala, died shortly after he suffered from a violent beating by 6 soldiers.

It was later found that Lt Col Somkhit Khongkhaeng, an army officer commanding the 6 soldiers involved in the beating, was promoted to his post despite the fact that he was involved in the fatal torture of a Deep South insurgent suspect in 2012.   

In June 2011, Wichian Puaksom, 26, a conscript in the Deep South province of Narathiwat, died after alleged brutal torture by about 10 soldiers.

An investigation by the 4th Army Region found that Wichian was severely tortured by other soldiers and his superiors after he was accused of running away from military training.

The Army report said that a number of soldiers at the request of Sub Lt Om Malaihom on 1 June 2011 stripped Wichian down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before repeatedly kicking him with military boots and beating him for several hours.

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