Army officer involved in brutal torture promoted to higher rank: victim’s niece

The outspoken niece of a soldier who was brutally tortured to death in a military barrack has said that an army officer involved in the torture of her uncle has been promoted to a higher rank. The same army officer has accused the niece of offences under the Computer Crime Act.

Naritsarawan Kaewnopparat, 25, the niece of Wichian Puaksom, a military conscript who was tortured to death by other soldiers in 2011 submitted on Wednesday, 17 August 2016 a letter to the Office of the Attorney General of Thailand in Bangkok to call for justice.

The police arrested Naritsarawan on 26 July and took her to the Deep Southern province of Narathiwat the next day for publishing details on the internet about the death of her late uncle. She was, however, later released on bail after she allowed her position as a worker under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to be used as a guarantee.   

The warrant for her arrest was granted back in February after Phuri Phueksophon, a Military Major in the 4th Army Region — the unit responsible for the torture of Naritsarawan’s uncle — accused her of violating the Computer Crime Act and defaming him by exposing the torture.

At the Attorney General Office, Naritsarawan pointed out that Phuri was promoted from the rank of Sub Lieutenant to the rank of Major despite being one of the 10 soldiers accused of the torture that led to the death of Wichian.

Moreover, while the other 9 soldiers accused of torture were suspended from their posts, Phuri was promoted.    

“I don’t want to avenge anyone, but I want justice for everybody, both for the soldiers and Wichian,” said Naritsarawan. “Why were the nine soldiers suspended and another one of them was not? So, I want to call for equality for them as well. I want to see that at least the judicial system should apply the same standard to everyone regardless of their social status.”

The Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) had concluded earlier that the 10 allegedly crimes were committed under Article 290 of the Criminal Code for physical assaults that lead to unintentional murder, Article 157 for malfeasance under public office, Article 83 on the prosecution of accomplices in crime and Article 30 of the 1930 Military Penal Code.

The PACC’s conclusion on the case was submitted to the staff of the military Judge Advocate General’s department. Despite the case occurring in 2011, the military prosecutor has not proceeded to formally indict the 10 soldiers of criminal charges.

As for the accusation against her under the Computer Crime Act, Naritsarawan has said that she did nothing wrong and is willing to prove her innocence through the judicial system.  

According to an investigation by the 4th Army Region, Wichian, who was then a 26-year-old military conscript in Narathiwat, 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.

The report added that the soldiers applied salt to the wounds of the torture victim to increase the pain. They also wrapped his entire body with a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and read funeral rites, before engaging in another round of beating.

After suing the Ministry of Defence, the Royal Thai Army and the Prime Minister's Office for malfeasance, Wichian’s family was given 7 million baht in compensation for their loss. However, up to now, none of the accused soldiers have been officially prosecuted for criminal offences.

Naritsarawan (third from the left) hands a letter to the Office of the Attorney General in Bangkok on 17 August 2016 to call for justice for her late uncle

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