Torture

29 04 2014

PPT has been a little slow in getting to this, but felt it significant for the light it throws on continuing impunity for state officials:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE
AHRC-PRL-006-2014

THAILAND: Rights groups tell U.N. torture is still rife

(Hong Kong, April 25, 2014) Rights groups in Thailand have informed the U.N. of continuing, routine use of torture in the country, ahead of a review of its compliance with an international law against torture.

In reports submitted to the U.N. Committee Against Torture as part of its review of Thailand under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, human rights defenders have pointed to inadequacies in law and practice of state agencies enabling the continued widespread use of torture in the country.

A coalition of seven local rights groups on April 10 submitted a 135-page report concentrating on the use of torture in the conflict-prone south, as well as against particular targeted communities.

Detailing 92 testimonies documented between 2011 and 2013, the coalition notes that many cases of torture in the south correspond with periods of extended detention without charge or trial under martial law and emergency provisions. It adds that in most cases people were tortured to have them confess to crimes or to extract information.

“Allegations of torture not only involve a broad range of perpetrators, ranging from military, police, paramilitary officials, and volunteers, but also indicate that such acts take place in various institutions,” the coalition says.

“Detainees are often transferred several times to different detention facilities. Some of them not only reported having been mistreated in the different locations, but also at the time of their arrest and during their transportation,” it continues.

Methods of torture described include strangling with hands or rope, choking, face dunking, kicking, punching, beating in the stomach, beating with cloth wrapped wooden bat, head-butting against the wall, force feeding, injecting with drugs that cause unconsciousness or loss of control, hooding, and electric shock.

Some detainees said they were exposed to extreme cold or heat, or to bright light or darkness for extended periods of time. Some, the torturers threatened to kill, or harm their family members.

The report points out that a draft amendment to the Criminal Code of Thailand to penalize torture is not in accordance with international standards, because it restricts the offence to only certain types of physical torture, committed by only some categories of government official, for a limited number of purposes.

In a separate 12-page report, the Justice For Peace foundation told the U.N. that the emergency regulations applied in southern Thailand place police operating in the region outside the rule of law. The report also describes torture and attendant abuses in the north of Thailand, particularly in the context of the so-called “war on drugs” and in its wake.

“Although the War on Narcotic Drugs was concluded at the end of 2003, the practice of torture, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances has continued until today,” the Bangkok-based group says.

“State officials may arrive at the door of one’s home, claiming to search for illegal goods and order a search without a court warrant, or a fake warrant, take valuables and vehicles from the house and detain the person at an unknown, unofficial place,” it adds.

The executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Bijo Francis, noted that although Thailand had ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture in 2007, it still had a long way to go to comply with its terms.

“Together, these reports are revealing of the extent to which state officials in Thailand continue to disregard the spirit of the Convention, to say nothing of its letter, which to this day still has no practical effect there,” Francis said.

“In fact, the amount of torture described is just the tip of the iceberg. We know from years of work on Thailand that torture is routinized in policing all around the country,” he added.

The Hong Kong-based human rights group has joined calls of the groups submitting reports to the U.N. for a more comprehensive, systemic and urgent programme to address torture through amendments to domestic law, the cessation of emergency regulations that enable its endemic use in some parts of the country, and systematic arrangements to provide redress to torture survivors and their families.

The coalition report is available on the AHRC website here

The JPF report is available here





The fate of those who faced the magic wand

13 09 2012

An AFP report has received fairly wide attention because it refers to perhaps hundreds of people locked up in part because of being caught/identified by the “magic wand” known as the GT200.

As almost everyone knows, that GT200 was a not too elaborate hoax explosives-cum-drug “detector” that the report refers to as “bogus.” The report notes that:

Human rights activists say more than 400 people have been locked up – some for up to two years – on the basis of spurious evidence gleaned by the device, which is at the centre of a British fraud probe.

This is because the GT200 became the army’s main detection tool for gunpowder residues and bombs. This despite the fact that:

Evidence debunking the powers of the GT200 – sold by Britain-based Global Technical Ltd – has long been in circulation, with experts describing it as little more than a radio aerial stuck on a useless piece of plastic despite the company’s claims that it can detect explosives from hundreds of metres away.

Angkhana Neelapaijit of the Justice for Peace foundation states that “[p]eople in the south knew the GT200 was fake from the first time it was used” back in 2007. She adds that “the Thai authorities refused to listen… all trust in the government and army has been lost.”

Even now, the report states that “the powerful military has refused to concede it was duped over its rumoured $20 million acquisition, or apologise to those held in what rights groups say is a flagrant miscarriage of justice.” In addition, the Army “refutes accusations of arbitrary detentions based on the faulty device.”

The talking heads at the Army refute so many things in circumstances that show they are simply lying, that no sensible person believes anything they say.

This time the “spokesperson/fabricator” is Colonel Pramote Promin of the Internal Security Operations Command who says: “It might be a hallucination but we found (weapons) many times. It might be a fluke or coincidence that it worked,” adding that the GT200’s effectiveness could be “something above science“. The work of a mysterious demi-god perhaps?

At least it seems that the Army has “stopped mass round-ups of men for ‘wanding’ by the device, which were commonplace between 2007 and 2010, according to locals in Yala and Pattani provinces.” But they still use it for checking vehicles and roads for bombs….

That doesn’t help the unfortunate ones who are locked up for alleged crimes resulting in part from magic wanding.





Torture, enforced disappearance and the military

30 08 2012

The Asian Human Right Commission has two statements/appeals that relate to Thailand and both involve state impunity, torture and forced disappearances.

The first instance of torture is deserving of reading in full. However, the introduction by AHRC says much:

The Asian Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned about a recent case of torture in the south of Thailand. Romuelee Loh-oh, 21, was arrested under unclear circumstances, tortured and repeatedly interrogated under inhumane conditions. His family was subject to repeated, intimidating searches of their home. This case is indicative of the entrenched practices of torture currently in use by the Thai state security forces that have developed and hardened into place since the declaration of martial law over the country’s south in January 2004. These practices terrorize individual citizens and families, fail to stem the widespread violence and further engender mistrust of the authorities by the citizens.

The second statement is about enforced disappearance on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances:

Today, August 30th, is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances defines enforced disappearances as: “… the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

On Thailand, AHRC circulates a statement from the Justice for Peace Foundation and the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances which begins by commending “the Thai government for signing the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance in January this year.” The extent of this state crime in Thailand is provided in statistics for 2011: “JPF has documented 40 incidents of enforced disappearances involving 59 people. 12 people were from northern Thailand, five from the west, seven from Isaan (north east) and 33 from the Deep south…”.

The statement lists those most likely to be “disappeared”: “(i) people with close relationships with officials and /or come into conflict with officials; (ii) activists engaged in human rights, political or corruption activism; (iii) witnesses of crimes or human rights violations; and (iv) migrants.” It adds that in “all of the cases, the right to truth and the right to justice for enforced disappearances remain largely denied by the state in Thailand.”





Who is at risk of state murder in Thailand?

30 05 2012

The Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF) has called for the Government of Thailand to ratify and comply with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The Asian Human Rights Commission has circulated it in English.

To most reasonable people, that might seem a very reasonable call. Indeed, a question might be asked as to why Thailand hasn’t already signed up. The answer is deeply depressing. The government – any Thai government – refuses to sign because, not unlike the abolition of the lese majeste law, such an innovation scares the pants off the elite. They fear that removing the impunity they have of using the Army and police to murder and massacre would bring their whole political and economic monopoly crashing down. Of course, it wouldn’t, but this lot won’t allow concessions to be made to the lesser beings they lord it over.

The JPF report details the enforced disappearance of 59 people from across Thailand. JPF President Angkhana Neelapaijit, whose husband Somchai was disappeared, states:

JPF has found that enforced disappearances take place within a broader context of state violence which is used to silence dissenting views and to eliminate suspected criminals, outside of the rule of law….

JPF found that two government policies contributed to enforced disappearances: “the highly militarized counter-insurgency approach adopted in southern Thailand by various governments and the War on Narcotic Drugs beginning in 2003.”

JPF also found that particular categories of people were most vulnerable to enforced disappearances:

(i) people with close relationships with officials and /or come into conflict with officials; (ii) activists engaged in human rights, political or corruption activism; (iii) witnesses of crimes or human rights violations; and (iv) migrants.

The report also points out that enforced disappearance is not a new problem, and notes cases since 1952.

How are people disappeared? Apparently there are three patterns:

The first, and most common, involves officials taking the victim from the street by forcing them into a vehicle and driving away. Secondly, the disappearance begins with the victim being arrested from his home or place frequently used by him. Thirdly, the victim is invited to meet an official at a specific location and then disappears. The detention of the individual is consistently denied when families seek information about their missing relative.

All of this will be depressingly familiar to anyone with some knowledge of Thailand and the activities and impunity of its police and Army. All of this is supported by the judiciary, which is biased, corrupt and compromised.

Angkhana is absolutely correct when she states that:

Decades of impunity have created a context in which administrative and security officials know that their illegal actions are condoned by the state and that the likelihood of legal action against them is extremely low….

JPF has made several recommendations, including ratification of the International Convention.





Updated: Another birthday, same old nonsense

12 08 2011

Royal birthday speeches by the queen are a mixture of royal back-slapping, political statement, long-held preferences and wishes about a country that is no longer what she hoped it was or would be. Essentially, Thailand has passed her by. She has almost no connection to the real world of Thai lives and politics. But that doesn’t mean that she isn’t influential and potentially dangerous. Her recent birthday speech illustrates all of this.

As the Economist has reiterated and as Wikileaks made clear, the queen is close to the royalist Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha who is amongst the most hawkish of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra and anti-red shirt  leadership of the military. As the magazine states, his views “reflect those of Queen Sirikit, his patron.”

This year’s birthday speech, as reported in The Nation, has the queen mourning the virtually unknown and mentally-challenged Princess Bejaratana who died recently, giving her support to yet another hopelessly expensive royal funeral that has been ordered by Princess Sirindhorn, the expense falling to taxpayers. These events are as much about supporting the ideological, social and economic position of the living royals as they are about any real mourning.

Being a rabid, nationalist Buddhist – a bit like some of those who are her supporters in the People’s Alliance for Democracy – she also outlined a plan to erect a “32-metre-tall Buddha statue at a Kanchanaburi temple in memory of the giant Buddha statues destroyed in Afghanistan a few years ago.”

As she and the king do every year, she called on “all Thais to unite as a nation for common prosperity, as expressed and encouraged in the national anthem.” She then praised the king and all of his “good works.” Recall that some royals want more emphasis on this as they feel the little people have forgotten how wonderful the royals are.

The queen then got into some deeply worrying political areas. Wikileaks reminds us that the aged queen urged a coup in 2008 and some very senior people reckoned she was a driving force behind the 2006 coup. And the Economist has recalled her “destructive partisanship, particularly towards yellow-shirt protesters in 2008, has been a public-relations disaster (amply detailed in American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks).” PPT assumes that part of this assessment by the Economist has to do with her support for armed and violent responses by Buddhist Thais in the deep south. She again commented on the south in this speech, mentioning a need for tolerance, but concentrating on Buddhist Thais rather than the toture and repression carried out by the military and police again Malay Muslims.

In this speech, the queen also returned to a favored topic in the palace: anti-drugs efforts. This topic, broached with Thaksin in the king’s 2002 birthday speech in  led the the human rights disaster that was Thaksin Shinawatra’s ill-conceived and poorly implemented War on Drugs.

In that speech, as reported by The Nation, the king:

urged his subjects to take an active part in the national effort to eliminate the illicit drug trade, which he described as a scourge of Thai society, in his traditional birthday speech…. The King acknowledged the prime minister’s speech, which catalogued royal contributions to a wide range of national development initiatives and their achievements in raising the living standards of the people, eliminating social ills and bringing about the general happiness of his subjects. But he said the prime minister had omitted to mention his decades-old dedication to stamping out illicit drugs, which have done so much damage to individuals and society, resulting in rising public health costs, social ills and the deployment of huge financial resources for drug suppression.

In her recent speech, as reported by the Bangkok Post, the queen

urged collective efforts by the government and the public to fight drug abuse which she said was “spreading more than quickly than germs.” She said His Majesty had made great efforts in urging hilltribe people to switch from growing opium to other crops. The country, however, is being used as a drug trafficking corridor and for production as well. She condemned those involved in the illicit business as cold-blooded murderers.

She added: “I feel unsettled hearing that drugs are rampant and available in every nook and corner and in schools…. They are acting like murderers, killing their own children in cold blood.”

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was required to give a birthday and welcome speech, had to praise the queen – it’s compulsory. She “praised the Queen’s dedication and many projects that improved people’s lives, while emphasising the government’s appreciation of her good deeds and its loyalty to her and the monarchy.” We trust that her brother’s problems in following royal advice will be a warning for her and that she’ll be more cautious about a war on drugs proposed by another old war horse.

Update: It is with considerable dismay that we read that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is reported to have found it appropriate to state that her government will follow the queen’s “advice” regarding opposing drugs in the country. As we noted above, when Thaksin followed the king’s advice in 2003, a human rights disaster resulted. We would hope that Yingluck’s statement is simply a matter of royal posterior polishing.

At least one human rights organization has heard alarm bells. We think it significant that Angkhana Neelaphaijit, chairwoman of the Justice for Peace Foundation, has spoken out immediately following the queen’s speech.

Angkhana is right to warn that a War on Drugs like that under Thaksin must be avoided at all cost. Yingluck must show that her government can deal with complex social problems while promoting human rights.





Torture is a crime

27 06 2011

Statement on International Day Against Torture

For Immediate Release on June 26, 2011

“Human Rights Organizations urge Thai Government to prevent and eliminate the use of torture by law enforcement officials in Thailand by implementing its obligation under UN Convention Against Torture to criminalize torture as a crime, to take effective measure for witness protection and remedy the victims, and most importantly to develop independent investigation mechanism to end impunity”

Section 32 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand B.E. 2550 recognized the right to liberty, the right to life and prohibition of torture or brutal treatment or punishment by a cruel or inhumane means. In addition, Thailand is a Party to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) which came into force for Thailand since November 1, 2007 which makes any action by the authorities by which severe pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted on a person with the purpose to force for confession or information, to intimidate or to punish the person, or for any other reason based on discrimination of any kind is “torture”. As the state party, Thailand has the obligation to prevent and punish act of torture. However, Thailand has not implemented its obligation to any measures, whether legislative, executive or judicial in order to prevent acts of torture, to protect witnesses, to remedy victims of torture, and most of all, measure to punish offenders.

Torture and cruel treatment is still exists in Thailand and still being used by law enforcement officers, whether under an emergency situation in the southern border provinces, emergency situations arising from political turmoil, or under enforcement of law in normal time. Moreover, tortured victim, who has filed complaint alleged that he was tortured by police to obtain confessions in the case of a gun robbery in Pileng Military Camp in Narathiwat Province in 2004, was pressed charge by the officers on charges of false police report after the Anti- Corruption Commission concluded that there was not enough evidence on torture complaint. The said victim was also a client and witness in cases of the enforced disappeared lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit who defended him in the gun robbery case.

As we mark International Day against Torture, today Human rights organizations as listed below urge the Thai government to accelerate the fulfillment of its obligations to prevent torture by taking legislative measures to enact, amend of laws and to take effective measure to

1. Criminalize offense of torture as a specific offense and determine appropriate penalty for such offense because “torture by state officials” is not yet a criminal offence under Thai law.

2. Develop independent and impartial mechanism for the investigation into alleged act of torture. At present, the perpetrators are not brought to justice and impunity continues because the offenders are often associated with investigation body in ways that undermine the independence and impartiality of the investigation.

3. Take effective measure for witness protection in accordance with safety standards. Conduct training and increase the number of officials. Allocate appropriate funding to make the witness protection system truly effective.

4. Develop effective measure to provide remedy to victims of torture, both physically and psychologically especially for psychological rehabilitation. Also to develop forensic psychiatry equipped with medical knowledge and expertise to monitor the post psychological trauma effect on the victim such as stress and anxiety after a bad experience.

5. Take effective measure to guarantee easy access, prompt, impartial and fair investigation of allegation of torture. Also to ensure protection from backlash countersue by alleged offender against complainant as this rights to petition is guarantee by the Constitution section. 62 that a person shall have the right to follow up, and to request for examination of, the performance of duties of a person holding political position, State agency and State officials. And a person who provides information related to the performance of duties of a person holding political position, State agency and State officials to the organisation examining the misuse of State power or State agency shall be protected. But in practice, torture survivor is not protected and still being countersue by alleged offender while state mechanism fails to bring perpetrator to justice.

 

“Torture is a crime.”

With respect to human rights and freedom

 

Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)

Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)

Union for Civil Liberties (UCL)

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Community Resources Centre (CRC)

Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF)

Stateless Watch

Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)

Muslim Attorney Center Foundation (MAC)

Bungaraya Group

 








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