Torture and “honor”

14 06 2016

The Royal Thai Army sometimes claims to defend the country’s reputation. As all readers of PPT would know, the Royal Thai Army is the prime reason for Thailand being seen as backward-looking, erratic, corrupt and repressive. After all, it is the Royal Thai Army that regularly murders its citizens, acts as a gang of thugs for the plutoctratic elite, and repeatedly throws out elected governments. We may have lost track, but the last time we looked, Thailand was the only military dictatorship in the world.

It is this same gang of thugs that the Bangkok Post reports has brought defamation charges against them under the Criminal Code and the Computer Crimes Act against three human rights defenders for their report on torture and ill-treatment in the far South by soldiers during 2014-2015. The report documented “54 cases of inhumane treatment in detention, [and] was published in February this year. The research and report were partly funded by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture.”

Earlier, in February, the thug-army had threatened the activists over their report. Some other reports of intimidation are here.

The human rights activists threatened are Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Anchana Heemmina and Somchai Homlaor.

The thugs are represented by the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4. They have claimed “their decision to file legal complaints against human rights advocates in the restive Deep South, saying that they have to defend the honour of the country…”. This would be hilarious if it wasn’t so revealing of the way in which the military dolts consider Thailand belongs to the Royal Thai Army. If there is no difference between the country and this gang, then the Royal Thai Army has no honor to “defend.” There is no honor in a hierarchical and murderous organization that even kills its own recruits in the name of some crippled notion of “honor” and “discipline.”

In response, the Asian Human Rights Commission has issues an urgent appeal:

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-065-2016

13 June 2016

THAILAND: Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

ISSUES: Torture; human rights defenders; military; threats and intimidation; rule of law

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) and Protection International Thailand (PI) regarding military harassment of human rights defenders in Thailand. On 17 May 2016, the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 sought power of attorney from the Royal Thai Army and submitted a complaint to Yala Mueang Police Station for criminal defamation and computer-related violations by three human right defenders, due to them being co-editors of a report detailing torture practiced by the Thai Army.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) is an organization that monitors and documents cases of torture and ill-treatment in Thailand. In 2002, The CrCF was registered under the Ministry of Culture, and since then the group has worked closely with its partners, such as the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Lawyer Council of Thailand, and Thai Volunteer Services, to facilitate legal aid and access to justice for vulnerable groups, and promoting understanding amongst diverse communities through research and information dissemination.

From 2014 to 2015, the CrCF and Duay Jay Group, a local organization based in Thailand’s Deep South region which supports people who suffer from the justice system, worked together to produce a torture report by monitoring and documenting cases of torture and ill-treatment in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, southernmost Thailand.

The report was partly funded by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, established under the UN General Assembly resolution 36/151 in 1981. Mr. Somchai Homlaor as president of the CrCF, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet as a director of the CrCF, and Ms. Anchana Heemmina as a director of the Duay Jay Group, worked as co-editors of the report.

On 8 January 2016, one month before its publication, the CrCF and the Duay Jay Group sent the report to Army Lt. Gen. Wiwat Pathompak, the director of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4). In response, high-ranking military regime officials publicly dismissed the accuracy of the report and vilified the intentions of the organisations involved in its compilation.

On 10 February 2016, the CrCF and the Duay Jay Group launched the report, ‘Torture and ill treatment in The Deep South Documented in 2014-2015’, which documented 54 cases of inhuman treatment in detention. Then the Thai Royal Army started to threaten all three editors and the human rights groups who supported them in the documentation.

As noted by the Asian Human Rights Commission statement (AHRC-STM-019-2016), one day after the CrCF and the Duay Jay Group released the report, Major General Banpot Poonpien, the ISOC spokesperson, accused the human rights groups of fabricating accounts of torture to obtain funding from abroad. He also asked whether or not the groups had the mandate to investigate the work of state officers. He ended with the threat that they could be committing defamation by issuing a report referring to international law.

After that, on 8 June 2016, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet was given information through a phone conversation by ISOC 4, that ISOC 4 sought the power of attorney from the Royal Thai Army and submitted a complaint to Yala Mueang Police Station on 17 May 2016 for criminal defamation under Section 328 of the Thai Criminal Code, and violation of the Computer Crimes Act B.E.2550 (2007), Section 14 (1). Authorities have already interrogated six witnesses and the police case file number is 704/2559.

This is not the first instance that the Royal Thai Army have attempted to sue the three human right defenders. In September 2014, both Mr. Somchai Homlaor and Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, as well as their organization, faced a criminal defamation and computer-related crimes charge filed by Paramilitary Unit 41. The case was eventually dropped by the decision of the public prosecutor in June 2015, following an international campaign denouncing the Royal Thai Army’s harassment and intimidation of these human right defenders for their legitimate and crucial human rights work. (See AHRC-UAC-133-2014 and AHRC-STM-164-2014 for more details.)

At the time of the release of this Urgent Appeal, the AHRC has received information from Mr.Somchai Homlaor that all three editors are waiting for summoning from the police. After that, they have to present themselves to the investigator at Yala Mueang Police Station in Yala province. All three have affirmed that whether they are charged or not, the CrCF and Duay Jay Group will continue to monitor and document cases of torture and ill-treatment in Thailand.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

According to the statement of Protection International Thailand, released on 13 June 2016, Mr. Somchai Homlaor is a seasoned and respected human rights lawyer in Thailand, who has been fighting to defend people’s human rights for the past 25 years. He was a Commissioner for the Law Reform Commission of Thailand until it was disbanded by the current military regime. Furthermore, as president of the Cross Cultural Foundation, he has been a key figure forging bridges across Thai society. The Cross Cultural Foundation organises educational activities, as well as research and legal support to promote people’s human rights, especially in Thailand’s southernmost provinces, which are in a state of prolonged armed conflict.

Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet is a leading human rights defender in Thailand who has been involved in various human rights issues both in Thailand and the region, including women’s rights, indigenous rights and preventing forced disappearances. Her work serves the public interest by ensuring that authorities are held accountable and pressuring authorities to unconditionally respect the human rights of all.

Ms. Anchana Heemmina is Director of Duay Jai Group, which has been working with victims of ill-treatment in national security cases since January 2010, in Thailand’s southernmost, conflict-affected regions. Following the release of the report on torture cases, on 14 February, Col. Suratep, Head of the Civil Society Organisations unit under the ISOC, contacted Ms. Anchana Heemmina and other activists who were involved in compiling the report and summoned them for a discussion. Ms. Anchana Heemmina presented herself at Sirinthon Army Camp in Yala Province for the discussion with seven security officers. The meeting lasted two and a half hours, during which the officers questioned Ms. Anchana Heemmina about the cases in the torture report. The officers expressed their discontent with the report and requested the human rights defender to henceforth submit all of her publications to the ISOC prior to their release. Ms. Anchana Heemmina refused to do so.

On 19 February 2016, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that a group of ten men in green uniforms visited the home of Ms. Anchana Heemmina, in Songkhla Province, but only Ms. Anchana’s mother was home. Without presenting any warrant, they claimed to be border police officers and asked about Ms. Anchana’s work and her personal information. The activist’s mother reported that the men took pictures of her and the house. She added that before they left they told her to inform Ms. Anchana not to use Line, a chat application, or Facebook.

All three human right defenders have been charged with Section 328 of the Thai Criminal Code and Section 14 (1) of the Computer Crimes Act B.E.2550 (2007). Under Section 328 of the Thai Criminal Code, they were faced with imprisonment not exceeding two years and fined not exceeding two hundred thousand Baht and under Section 14/1 of the Computer Crimes Act B.E.2550 (2007), they were also faced with imprisonment not exceeding five years or fine not exceeding one hundred thousand baht or both.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately cease the judicial harassment and end any ongoing investigation of Mr. Somchai Homlaor Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina for their work defending human rights.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

Name of victim: 1. Mr.Somchai Homlaor 2. Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet 3. Ms. Anchana Heemmina
Names of alleged perpetrators: 1. The Royal Thai Army 2. The Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4)
Date of incident: 17 May 2016 to the present
Place of incident: Yala province, Thailand

I am deeply disturbed to learn of the judicial harassment of three human rights defenders in Thailand. A legal complaint of criminal defamation and computer related crime has been filed against Mr. Somchai Homlaor, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, and Ms. Anchana Heemmina alleging that they have caused damage to the reputation of the Thai Royal Army by documenting torture cases in southern Thailand and launching a report, “Torture and ill treatment in The Deep South Documented in 2014-2015”. This complaint against all three human rights defenders is a clear instance of the judicial harassment of a human rights defender. They should be lauded for their work in support of human rights, not persecuted.

From 2014 to 2015, the CrCF and Duay Jay Group, a local organization based in Thailand’s Deep South region which supports people who suffer from the justice system, worked in partnership to produce a torture report by monitoring and documenting cases of torture and ill-treatment in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, southernmost Thailand. The report was partly funded by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, established under the General Assembly resolution 36/151 in 1981. Mr. Somchai Homlaor as a president of the CrCF, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet as a director of the CrCF, and Ms. Anchana Heemmina as a director of the Duay Jay Group, worked as co-editors of the report.

The judicial action has been taken despite the human rights defenders’ best effort to engage with state authorities. On 8 January 2016, one month before its publication, the CrCF and the Duay Jay Group had sent the report to Army Lt. Gen. Wiwat Pathompak, the director of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4). However, high-ranking military regime officials have publicly dismissed the accuracy of the report and vilified the intentions of the civil society organisations who compiled the report.

In addition, after the CrCF and the Duay Jay Group had released the report on 10 February 2016, the Thai Royal Army started to threaten all three editors and human rights groups who supported them in documenting the torture cases.

After that, on 8 June 2016, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet was given information through a phone conversation that ISOC 4 sought the power of attorney from the Royal Thai Army and submitted a complaint to Yala Mueang Police Station on 17 May 2016 for criminal defamation under Section 328 of the Thai Criminal Code, and violation of the Computer Crimes Act B.E.2550 (2007), Section 14 (1). Regarding to the CrCF and the PI, authorities have already interrogated six witnesses and the police case file is No. 704/2559.

With regard to this case, I am concerned over the use of outdated criminal defamation law in Thailand as means to attack human rights defenders and other persons speaking in the public interest. Such laws and actions have no place in a modern justice system. Moreover, this judicial harassment of the three human rights defenders is not an isolated incident, but is symptomatic of a broader pattern of Thai state action to conceal the perpetration of torture by state officials. This is in direct conflict with Thailand’s obligations as a state party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which not only criminalizes torture, but also includes provisions for the protection of those who speak out in support of victims of torture.

Moreover, I wish to point out that on 24 May 2016, the Thai military regime also issued a Cabinet Resolution stating that they will pass a Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act but I found that the same military regime has now sued human rights defenders who have been supporting survivors as well as pushing for policy reform to prevent torture and provide legal assistance to survivors and their families.

Therefore, I would like to urge:

1.The Commander of Royal Thai Army to immediately withdraw the complaint against Mr. Somchai Homlaor, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina and end its harassment of them for their work defending human rights. In addition, the Commander of Royal Thai Army should take action to defend victims of torture, protect those defending their rights, and set up an independent investigation complaint of torture perpetrated by state officials and make systematic change to end the use of torture by state security officials. This is a clear opportunity for the Royal Thai Army to both preserve their own reputation and act in support of the principles of human rights.
2. The Prime Minister, Chair of the National Council for Peace and Order and Commander in- Chief of the Royal Thai Army to urge the commander of the Royal Thai Army to withdraw the complaint against Mr. Somchai Homlaor Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina and take prompt action to defend victims of torture and protect those defending their rights, and set up an independent investigation complaint of torture perpetrated by state officials.

3. The Commissioner-General of Royal Thai Police and the Attorney General of Office of Attorney General to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Somchai Homlaor Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina and unconditionally drop all charges against them.

4. The Chair of the National Human Rights Commission to urge The Royal Thai Army to take prompt action to protect victims, witnesses, and human rights defenders working on the issue of torture and set up an independent investigation complaint of torture perpetrated by state officials and make systematic changes to end the use of torture by state security officials.

Yours Sincerely,

……………….

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Head of the National Council for Peace and Order
Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief
Rachadamnoen Nok Road
Bang Khun Phrom
Bangkok 10200
THAILAND

2. Lt. Gen. Wiwat Pathompak
Director of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4)
Sirinthon Army Camp
Khoatum sub-district Yarang district
Pattani Province 94160
THAILAND
Tel: +667 326 2668 Email: isoc4hr@gmail.com

3. Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police
Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan,
Khet Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Tel: +66 1 599

4. Pol.Sub.Lt. Pongniwat Yuthaphunboripahn
Deputy Attorney General.
The Office of the Attorney General
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December, B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Tel: +66 2 142 1444
Fax: +66 2 143 9546
Email: ag@ago.go.th

5. Mr. What Tingsamitr
Chairman, National Human Rights Commission
The Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary 5th December
B.E.2550 (2007), Building B 120 Moo 3
Chaengwattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
E-mail: help@nhrc.or.th

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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