Court accepts lawsuit against 4 policemen accused of torture

After a seven-year fight for justice, a provincial court has accepted a lawsuit against four police officers accused of torturing a suspect.

On 15 December 2016, the Provincial Court of Prachinburi accepted a lawsuit filed by Rittirong Chuenjit, 25, against four of seven police officers accused of torture, according to the Cross Cultural Center (CrCF).

Rittirong accused seven police officers of offences under Articles 83, 91, 157, 200, 295, 309, 310 and 391 of the Criminal Code for unlawfully detaining him and torturing him psychologically and physically.

The court stated that the evidence against the four police officers is credible, giving weight to the medical report on Rittirong conducted after he was released from custody.  

In January 2009, Ritttirong, then an 18-year-old student, was arrested by police officers who alleged that he was a thief. After his arrest, the police officers allegedly tortured him to obtain a confession. He was later released after the police found that they had arrested the wrong suspect.

During the first hearing in the case in August 2015, Rittirong testified that the police officers covered his head with a black plastic bag and tried to suffocate him three times.

The plaintiff also said that he had filed a case with the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, but the Office concluded that there was no concrete evidence despite the fact that a subcommittee of the Office had earlier investigated the case and said that it could proceed.  

Rittirong added that he was terrified after the torture and did not want to tell anyone about it until his parents asked him about the bruises and other physical injuries apparent on his body.

Allegations of torture and ill-treatment at the hands of authorities are common in Thailand, especially in the restive Deep South where the authorities can detain citizens without charge for up to 37 days under the Emergency Decree and Internal Security Act. These special security laws have been in force in the region for more than a decade.

According to a shadow report submitted to the UN in 2014 on Thailand’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture, 393 out of 3,456 allegations of rights violations in the Deep South are related to ill-treatment and torture by state officials.