After a legal battle lasting almost 8 years, a torture victim wrongfully arrested for theft has lodged a civil lawsuit against the Thai police.
Rittirong Chuenjit, 26, on 26 May 2017 filed suit against the Royal Thai Police at the Southern Bangkok Civil Court.
Through a lawyer from the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), a human rights advocacy group, Rittirong is suing the police for 20,800,000 baht for allegedly breaching the 1996 Act Governing Liability for Wrongful Acts of Competent Officers by torturing him.
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.
For several years, Rittirong’s family failed in their attempts to press charges against the police officers. They first filed a complaint with the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) to no avail.
The family later contacted CrCF for legal assistance and successfully filed charges against seven police offices at the Provincial Court on 10 June 2015.
Rittirong accused seven police officers of Mueang Prachinburi Police Station 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 accepted the charges against four of the seven officers. The case is now under appeal as the family is adamant about pressing charges against all seven. They, however, withdrew charges against two of the four officers who confessed and apologised to them.
On 19 May 2017, Rittirong also filed a complaint against a local public official who allegedly testified falsely to the PACC about his case in favour of the police officers.
At a court hearing in February 2016, Rittirong testified that after he was tortured by the officers to make him confess, they threatened that if he exposed the torture they would kill him and dump his body on a mountain in the province.
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.
The family later convinced Rittirong to undergo a medical examination. Rittirong also dropped out of school because he was extremely traumatised by the torture and later had to receive psychiatric treatment.
During the first hearing in the case in August 2015, Rittirong testified that the police officers hooded his head with a black plastic bag and suffocated him three times.
Earlier this year, the junta-appointed legislature dropped a bill to criminalise torture and enforced disappearance after years of campaigning and lobbying by human rights groups.
The now suspended bill was the first law to recognise and criminalise torture and enforced disappearance by the Thai authorities even in cases where the body of the victim is missing.
The Justice Ministry submitted the bill to the NLA in 2016, a decade after Thailand signed the UN conventions against torture and enforced disappearance.