On 29 November 2021, the Prachinburi Provincial Court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision to drop a lawsuit filed by a police officer against Ritthirong Cheunchit, a man detained and beaten by the police. The suit alleged that Ritthirong previously gave false testimony in court.
From left to right: Ritthirong and Somsak Cheunchit. (Source: Cross Cultural Foundation)
According to the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), the court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision that Ritthirong’s account of the treatment he received at the hands of the police was credible.
This latest proceeding began on 10 June 2015. It stemmed from an earlier suit filed in 2009 by Ritthirong against a policeman for unlawful arrest and torture. A policeman filed a counter-suit against Ritthirong, accusing him of perjury.
The Prachinburi Court initially ruled against Ritthirong, who was given a 5-year jail sentence and 100,000 baht fine. The sentence was later reduced to two years of parole. The ruling has now been overturned.
In a press statement, CrCF noted that the police lawsuit was another attempt to stop a victim of unlawful treatment from pursuing justice. In conjunction with a number of other civil organizations, the Foundation is lobbying parliament to approve an anti-torture bill to facilitate proceedings on behalf of torture and enforced disappearance victims.
The bill is currently undergoing a second of three requisite parliament readings.
Ritthirong’s journey was long and hard. He was detained by police in 2009 on his way home from the cinema and forced to confess that he snatched a gold necklace.
At the police station, a woman wrongly identified Ritthirong as the person who had taken her necklace. Ignoring his assertion of innocence, the interrogating officers beat the handcuffed youth and then suffocated him with plastic bags in a bid to determine where the necklace was hidden. When Ritthirong chewed holes in the bags to breathe, the interrogators put more bags over his head.
They also told Ritthirong that if he died, they would hide his corpse in a far-away wilderness. Terrorised, the youth decided that the only way to escape was to admit to the theft and claim that the necklace was at a shop he frequented.
Beating him some more, the police then accused him of being on drugs and sought evidence with a urine test, which later proved to be negative.
The episode left the 18-year-old student and acoustic guitar player with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and he has since required ongoing medical treatment. Ritthirong’s father, Somsak, has been seeking justice for his son in the courts since 2009.
Thus far, his efforts have borne little fruit. After 12 years of struggle, only one police officer has been punished. Sentenced to prison for 16 months and fined 8,000 baht fine for interfering with an investigation, he has already been paroled.