Should anyone believe the military?

7 08 2014

“An opposition activist’s claims that she was tortured in military custody were “100 percent fabricated”, Thailand’s ruling junta said…”, as quoted in a Reuters report. This response is to the statements by former political prisoner Kritsuda Khunasen. As previously posted, she was illegally held by the military dictatorship, and PPT can only assume that both the illegal detention, alleged torture and response to he claims all came with the approval of The Leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

There has been much attention in recent days to CIA torture in Thailand. That the report is controversial is noted in several reports. But, then, for Thailand, the partnership in torture has long been known.

Within the military and police in Thailand, torture is standard practice. Earlier this year, “[r]ights groups in Thailand have informed the U.N. of continuing, routine use of torture in the country…”. Here’s a bit more from that report:

“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.

In the south, the use of torture is routine. Not that long ago, this was reported from the south:

Abuses reported by detainees include severe beatings, electric shocks, forced nudity, exposure to extreme cold or heat, needles inserted into open wounds and holding detainees’ family members hostage — including, in one case, a 6-year-old boy.

What was the Army’s response then? Here it is: “The army has … has flat-out denied them [the claims].” A commander, Lieut. General Udomchai Thamsarorat, speaks: “We have never committed torture…. We’re here to help people, not hurt them.”

Sounds like a justification for a military coup. No one believes such denials.

No one could be blamed for thinking that the denial in Kritsuda’s case is no different. It is likely to be a lie.

Updated: Kritsuda on her military detention

3 08 2014

As previously posted, Kritsuda Khunasen is now safe and able to speak now that she has fled Thailand and is in Europe.

Prachatai reports on an interview she has conducted where she

… revealed that when she was illegally detained by the junta, she was suffocated and physically assaulted. The torture was aimed at forcing her to link former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra with the hard core red-shirt groups….

While the military dictatorship had announced that Kritsuda was “happy” and “meditating”while in illegal detention, the truth was far different.

A video clip of her interview with Jom Petchpradab, an independent journalist, has become available, although it now seems to have been removed or moved.

In that interview, Kritsuda tells of torture:

… she was blindfolded and her hands were bound on the first seven days of the detention. During the period, a female officer would help her when eating, taking a bath, and when she wanted to go to restroom. She said while she was naked during taking bath, she heard a male voice. “I consider this sexual harassment.”

She said she was beaten several times during the interrogation. She was also suffocated when a plastic bag and a piece of fabric covering her head until she lost consciousness.

The military interrogations tried repeatedly “to link former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra with her boss ‘May E.U.,’ and the militant wing of the red shirt camp.”

The report notes that:

Mananchaya Ketkaew, aka “May E.U.” is a low-profile red-shirt figure who represents pro-Thaksin “Red E.U.” of the red shirts in Europe. The group’s main activity is to financially assists red shirt political prisoners, victims of political violence, and funds tuition fees for children of red-shirt supporters. Under May, Kritsuda has reached out to many red-shirt political prisoners, most of them arrested after the 2010 crackdown. There has been a rumor that the group is financially supported by the former prime minister.

Kritsuda said Thaksin never supports the group and that it was donation from May and red shirts in Europe.

She says that when she accused the military of wrongdoing, she was hit. In the end, she decided to tell the military interrogators what they wanted to hear: “PM Thaksin is the one who supporter the red-shirt prisoners. Like [they believe] Thaksin instigates the red shirts to break laws. But in fact, that’s not true.”

On 15 June she was forced to sign a paper stating that she asked the military to allow her to continue in detention, “meditating.” She says: “I had to write that statement because I wanted to survive.”

On 23 June, “she said, a group of military officers, including the Army Spokesman told her to speak nicely about the army when appearing on the special TV program on Channel 5.” She adds:

On the day she was released, she said the military had her boyfriend charged and that there was the deal between her and the military that she would have to speak nicely to the reporters at the Crime Suppression Division, otherwise her boyfriend would not be granted bail.

She stated that her boyfriend was also tortured and that both of them have fled military-dominated Thailand and are seeking asylum.

Update: The video of the interview is now available again via Asia Provocateur:

Activist flees

2 08 2014

Readers may recall that almost immediately following the illegal 22 May 2014 coup, the military junta sent its soldiers to arrest Kritsuda Khunasen, a 27 year-old red shirt activist in Chonburi. This was a part of the military dictatorship’s carefully planned effort to prevent any opposition to the coup by rounding up potential leaders of any anti-coup action.

Kritsuda was arrested on 28 May yet the military lied that it did not take her. When video showing her arrested and taken away, the military then refused to disclose any information about her detention. She was illegally held in incommunicado detention for almost three weeks.

When she was eventually released, the military attempted to cover up its illegal actions by producing a propaganda video that the military junta had played on the its media. At the time, it was clear that a fearful Kritsuda was pressured to state “how happy and well-treated she’d been while imprisoned the military, saying her detention was ‘too good for words to say’ and was staying longer.”

The unbelievably doltish and dishonest military junta stated that she was held at her “own request” so she could “meditate.” Suddenly, within 24 hours, Kritsuda was released. The junta’s unbelievably dopey spokesman then made all kinds of contradictory statements about the legality of her illegal detention.

Upon her release, Kritsuda, having been forced, like all other detainees, to sign a military agreement to declare that she was “well-treated,” desist from politics and anything else the military found troubling, she told reporters that she was well-treated throughout the detention.

It now remains to be seen how the military dictatorship will dissemble on Kritsuda’s flight to Europe vowing “to expose the true story of her detention.”

Kritsuda “is now residing in Europe and plans to apply for an asylum in an unspecified European country.”

Apparently, Kritsuda” is being assisted by the anti-coup organisation in exile, The Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FTHD).”

On Facebook, Kritsuda described her detention as “the 27 days I was close to death in the military barrack.” She states: “I will remember to the day I die. What they call ‘soldier gentlemen’ are in fact animal from hell…”.

We guess that the military dictatorship will be keen to block her story – promised to appear at Prachatai – and will seek to discredit her.


Activist released

25 06 2014

Almost a week ago, PPT posted a call from Human Right Watch regarding the disappearance of red shirt activist Kritsuda Khunasen. She had been detained from 28 May in an unknown place of detention. When the military junta then made another call for her to surrender to them on 18 June, grave fears were held for her safety.

Just a few days ago, we called for the military dictatorship to produce Kritsuda immediately and release her or lay charges.

We doubt that our call had any impact on the junta as they probably are banned from reading us, but the international and domestic pressure forced the military to produce a news report on military-owned and controlled Channel 5 that was a kind of show trial without the trial. It appeared staged and scripted:

She stated how happy and well-treated she’d been while imprisoned the military, saying her detention was “too good for words to say” and was staying longer. Meanwhile, the unbelievably stupid junta had stated that she was held at her own request so she could “meditate.”

Suddenly, within 24 hours, she was released. The junta’s dopey spokesman then made all kinds of contradictory statements about the legality of her illegal detention. Thailand is la-la-land under the military dictatorship.

AI on the junta’s destruction of human rights

21 06 2014

Amnesty International paints an appropriately grim picture of the military dictatorship’s repression of human rights:

Thailand: Grim outlook for human rights after a month of martial law

There appears to be no end in sight to violations of a range of human rights one month after martial law was declared in Thailand, Amnesty International warned today.

Since the military declared martial law on 20 May 2014, the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have been harshly restricted and extended powers of detention have resulted in some 511 individuals including political activists being arbitrarily detained, though most were held for a few days. [PPT thinks the figure is far higher given that the dictatos have not been reporting on those rounded up in rural areas.]

“Sacrificing human rights for political expediency is never a price worth paying – Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order [the mean the military junta] must ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are protected. They must stop arbitrary detentions and prosecutions of peaceful critics,” said Richard Bennett, Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

“It is high time Thailand’s military rolls back the repressive and vaguely worded orders it has put in place, many of which violate Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law.”

Waiving constitutional protections and detention safeguards has undermined respect for human rights and the rule of law, and may have contributed to the possible enforced disappearance of at least one activist.[PPT points out that there are no constitutional rights as the junta junked all of the constitution except for the bit covering the monarchy and sucession, probably thinking that the king could die at any moment.]

Kritsuda Khunasen, a prominent political activist, has not been seen or heard from since she was reportedly arrested in Chonburi Province, south-east of the capital Bangkok, on 28 May.

Arbitrary detention, denial of bail and prosecution are increasingly being used as measures to keep people from speaking out about the political situation. Hundreds of people – more than 90 per cent of whom are political allies or supporters of the former government, as well as academics and journalists – have been arbitrarily detained, after being ordered to report to authorities.

Failing to report to authorities is now a criminal offence, and those who have reported and been released are threatened with prosecution if they engage in activities perceived to be against the military takeover.

Authorities have charged critics for acts of peaceful dissent under security legislation and laws that severely restrict human rights, in violation of Thailand’s international legal obligations. Using social media to call for demonstrations, and even clicking “like” on certain Facebook posts may be treated as criminal offences.

Authorities are also speeding up prosecutions under Thailand’s lèse majesté law – which criminalizes criticism of the monarchy – and is denying bail to those charged under it. [At least AI now seems to take lese majeste more seriously than when their then representative Benjamin Zawacki tried to block any attention to this human rights abuse.]

Beyond directly silencing the media, the restrictions are creating an environment of self-censorship and uncertainty about freedom of expression that is not conducive to free participation in discussions about reconciliation and Thailand’s political future. [The implication that the military can promote reconciliation is ludicrous.]

“The raft of repressive measures in place in Thailand paints a grim picture of the state of human rights under martial law. The military authorities must immediately revoke these restrictions and stop detaining and prosecuting activists for peacefully exercising their human rights,” said Richard Bennett.

Amnesty International renews calls for authorities to make public the identity and whereabouts of all individuals held under martial law. The organization is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained solely for exercising peacefully their human rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Anyone suspected of a recognizably criminal offence should be charged and prosecuted in civilian courts, and in proceedings which meet international standards of fairness.

Activist missing

19 06 2014

PPT doesn’t usually post direct from Human Right Watch, yet this call for accountability deserves widespread attention:

Thailand: Account for ‘Disappeared’ Political Activist
Concerns Over Summons for Person Arrested by Soldiers in May

The Thai military authorities should immediately provide information about the whereabouts of an opposition activist arrested by soldiers on May 28, 2014, Human Rights Watch said today. Instead of revealing her place of detention, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) military junta included her name on a June 17 list of people summoned to report to the authorities by June 18 or face arrest.

Soldiers arrested Kritsuda Khunasen, 27, on May 28 in Chonburi province, but the military authorities have declined to disclose any information about her detention or provide any evidence that she has been released, raising grave concerns for her safety. Instead, the military has denied any knowledge of her whereabouts despite television footage showing that she was arrested and taken away by soldiers from the 14th Military Circle.

“The Thai military should put to rest fears that Kritsuda has been forcibly disappeared by immediately disclosing her location and allowing access to a doctor and a lawyer,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Concerned governments should demand that Thailand’s military authorities immediately explain what has happened to her and ensure her safety.”

Kritsuda is a well-known activist with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as the Red Shirts. She has been instrumental in a campaign to provide legal and humanitarian assistance to UDD members and supporters affected by political violence that took place in 2010.

Since Kritsuda’s arrest, her family and Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have tried unsuccessfully to locate her. Human Rights Watch has publicly raised concerns about Kritsuda’s safety and other secret military detentions.

Kritsuda has already been held two weeks longer than the seven-day period of administrative detention permitted under the 1949 Martial Law Act, which the military invoked after carrying out its coup on May 22, 2014.

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the permanent secretary of the Thai Foreign Ministry, told the United Nations Human Rights Council on June 12 that most of the people summoned by the military authorities had already been released, and that no one had been held for more than a week. The NCPO has contended that incommunicado detention is necessary to allow detainees to “cool off and adjust their attitude” without disruption from outsiders.

Enforced disappearances are defined under international law as the arrest or detention of a person by state officials or their agents followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty, or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts.

Enforced disappearances violate a range of fundamental human rights protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party, including prohibitions against arbitrary arrest and detention; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and extrajudicial execution. “Disappeared” people are often at high risk of torture, particularly when they are detained outside of formal detention facilities such as prisons and police stations.

Since the coup, the military has detained more than 300 ruling party and opposition politicians, activists, journalists, and individuals accused of supporting the deposed government, disrespecting or offending the monarchy, or being involved in anti-coup protests and activities. While many of those detained have been released, the military continues to issue orders summoning people to turn themselves in.

After reporting to the military, those summoned are usually interrogated and then sent to be detained incommunicado in unofficial places of detention, such as military camps. Those who fail to report after an NCPO summons, such as former Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, the protest leader Sombat Boon-ngarmanong, the labor activist Jitra Kotchadet, and the law professor Worachet Pakeerut, face arrest and could be prosecuted in military courts.

“Summoning someone already in custody raises concerns that the authorities may be preparing to cover up a disappearance and that something may have happened to Kritsuda,” Adams said. “The best way to prove this is not the case is to release her unharmed.”

Other stories about the missing activist:

Coup2014 | Thai Coup 2014 News

Prachatai English

Junta Summons Activist Not Yet Released from Military Custody

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