Updated: On Pravit’s detention (and release)

15 09 2015

The Asian Human Rights Commission has released an important statement on the secret detention of moderate journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk:

September 14, 2015

THAILAND: Incommunicado detention of journalist by the junta

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is gravely concerned to have learned that Pravit Rojanaphruk, journalist for the Nation newspaper and freedom of expression advocate, is being detained in an undisclosed location by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The conditions of his detention are arbitrary and a clear derogation of the Government of Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The AHRC views his incommunicado detention as a warning sign of the deepening human rights crisis in Thailand.

According to information provided to the AHRC, Pravit Rojanaphruk was summoned by telephone call to report to the First Army Region base in Bangkok at 2 pm on Sunday, 13 September. Although he requested details on the nature of the summons, the military did not provide any additional information. He reported himself to the entrance of the base at the requested time, and was then told to give his mobile telephone to the lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) who accompanied him. Pravit was next taken inside the base alone and the lawyer was asked to leave. The military officials present at the entrance refused to provide any information about where Pravit was being taken or when he would be released. Despite additional attempts by TLHR to ascertain Pravit’s location on 13 September, the only information provided by the officials at First Army Region base was that he had been taken to an unknown location by another military unit.

On Monday, 14 September, Colonel Winthai Suvaree, spokesperson for the NCPO, acknowledged that Pravit Rojanaphruk was being held. He said that Pravit and others have been summoned to the First Army Region base primarily as a result of “presenting information that is not in line with the preservation of peace and order.” In addition to Pravit, two former Phue Thai Party politicians, Phichai Naripatapan and Karun Hosakul, are also known to be currently arbitrarily detained by the junta. Colonel Winthai further noted that all of the actions are being carried out sincerely by the officials and are based on reasoned evidence and without any intention to create confusion or conflict in society. Colonel Winthai did not provide information on where Pravit was being held or when he would be released, but noted that he was currently “ …being processed by the officials. How long it will take will depend on the results of the investigation, his cooperation, and the evidence held by the officials” (Matichon, 14 September 2015).

The arbitrary detention of Pravit Rojanaphruk comes after fifteen months of military rule following the 22 May 2014 military coup by the NCPO led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha. Since the coup, there has been a precipitous decline in the protection of human rights. There have been severe restrictions placed on freedom of expression and political freedom, ongoing formal and informal summons to report to the junta for alleged “attitude adjustment,” extensive use of arbitrary detention, the activation of military courts to process crimes against the crown and state, and the creation of a general climate of fear detrimental to human rights and the rule of law. Although martial law was revoked on 1 April 2015, NCPO Order 3/2558 issued under Article 44 of the 2014 Interim Constitution was used to replace the provisions granted by martial law, including the authority to arbitrarily detain individuals for up to seven days. As under martial law, those detained can be held at irregular places of detention, including permanent or temporary military bases or other sites designated as places of detention. Detention in irregular places means that the possibility for rights violations, including torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial execution is greatly increased.

This is the second time that Pravit Rojanaphruk has been arbitrarily detained by the junta. He was summoned and detained for the first time shortly after the coup, when Order No. 6/2557 demanded that he report himself to the Army Club on Thewet Road on 24 May 2014 (AHRC-STM-100-2014). He was then detained for seven days before being released. Like others released from detention by the NCPO, under Announcement No. 39/2557, Pravit was compelled to sign a statement agreeing to a number of conditions, including that he would not exercise his fundamental human rights to free expression or assembly, or leave the country without permission of the junta.

The continued arbitrary detention and constriction of freedom of expression by the NCPO are clear derogations of Thailand’s responsibilities as a state party to the ICCPR. In particular, the incommunicado detention of Pravit Rojanaphruk and others is a violation of the obligations under Article 9, which provides specifically that, “1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law. 2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him. 3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release…” The AHRC would like to emphasize that there is no legal basis for the detention of citizens without charge because they do not share the same political opinions as the junta.

At this time, Pravit Rojanaphruk’s location and safety are unknown. The Asian Human Rights Commission calls on the NCPO to immediately release Pravit Rojanaphruk and all citizens being arbitrarily detained without charge. The AHRC unequivocally condemns the coup in the strongest terms and wishes to express grave concern about the ongoing decline of human rights protections it has engendered. Further, the AHRC calls on the NCPO to recognize that tolerance for different ideas and dissent are part of building a polity grounded in human rights and the rule of law. To think differently than the junta and defend human rights are not crimes.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that Pichai Naripatapan, Karun Hosakul and Pravit Rojanaphruk have been released from the junta’s detention. It seems that at least one has “agreed” to the junta’s terms – essentially to shut up and not criticize the junta or its policies. The Post report has details of the iitimidation of others.