Public prosecutors have dropped defamation charges against Naritsarawan ‘May’ Keawnopparat, Prachatai’s Person of the Year 2016.
On 24 January 2017, Naritsarawan told the BBC Thai that the Director-General of the 9th region Public Prosecutor’s Office and prosecutors of Narathiwat Province dropped accusations under the Computer Crime Act and Criminal Defamation against her.
She said that the case file will be sent back to the police and it will be up to Pol Maj Gen Ronnasin Phusara, Interim Commander of the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Center, whether he will oppose the prosecutors’ decision on the matter.
Naritsarawan added that she will request for a meeting with Ronnasin to call for justice as she believes that she did nothing wrong in demanding justice for her late uncle, Wichian Puaksom, a military conscript who was tortured to death by other soldiers in 2011.
The police arrested Naritsarawan on 26 July 2016 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 was allowed to use 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 2016 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.
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.
After relentless efforts of Naritsarawan, Phuri has recently been suspended from his military post in late 2016. The military prosecutors are now considering whether he will be indicted for torture and murder or not.
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.
Naritsarawan ‘May’ Keawnopparat