Updated: Dissembling for Bahrain

12 12 2018

Late yesterday the Bangkok Post reported that the Criminal Court “approved the detention of a Bahraini footballer with refugee status in Australia for another 60 days, as Bahrain seeks his extradition.”

The Criminal Court allowed the Immigration police “a further 60 days to allow procedures for his extradition.”

The report adds that “[l]ast Friday, the Attorney-General’s Office submitted the AlAraibi extradition case to the Criminal Court on behalf of Bahrain, because there is an outstanding arrest warrant for him in the Arab Gulf state.”

A photo from The Guardian

And then it says. “… AlAraibi was stopped by immigration police on Nov 27 after arriving in Bangkok from Australia for a vacation with his wife, following a request from Bahrain,” while noting that “Thailand has no formal extradition agreement with Bahrain.”

All of this sounded a bit contrived for PPT, so we looked a bit more for some details. It turns out that the regime in Bangkok is dissembling.

A report by Australia’s ABC News has these details:

“[The court] says the [Thai] Government is still waiting for the official extradition request, so during that process they cannot grant bail,” said Nadthasiri Berkman, one of the lawyers working on his case.

This contradicts a statement released by the Thai Government on Saturday.

That statement is reproduced in part:

“The detention was carried out in response to the red notice alert received from the Interpol National Central Bureau of Australia and the formal request from the Bahraini Government for his arrest and extradition,” said the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement that repeatedly misspelled Mr AlAraibi’s name as “Oraibi”….

It seems very clear that the military regime is acting for Bahrain. Indeed, it is dissembling for that country’s monarchy.

As well as spelling errors, the idea that a red notice came from Australia is unlikely and appears to contradict the NCB’s role. That’s not to say that an error might have occurred in Australia, but it was Australia that provided his refugee status and presumably scrutinized his travel documents and permitted him to leave Australia. In this context, the report states:

… His lawyer was at a loss to explain how the Interpol red notice might have come from Australia, when significant diplomatic resources are being mobilised to advocate for his safe return.

“I don’t understand that either … it’s contradicting information,” said Ms Berkman….

Interpol has a policy of not issuing red notices — effectively international arrest warrants — in the case of refugees, and withdrew the notice for Mr AlAraibi on December 3.

The ABC report has more:

Another lawyer working on the case — Somchai Homlaor — said the way Mr AlAraibi was detained suggested the Thai Government had acted because of diplomatic pressure, rather than international law.

Somchai stated: “This is a political case…”. We think it is more than a political case, involving friendly monarchies.

Update: It turns out that the Australians did tell Thailand that al-Araibi was visiting. The Sydney Morning Herald refers to this as “outrageous.” It seems that Australia’s “Department of Home Affairs [has now] attempted to distance itself from Araibi’s detention. The Department:

confirmed the Interpol National Central Bureau in Australia had “advised Thai authorities in relation to the scheduled arrival of a person who was the subject of an Interpol Red Notice”.

“The Interpol Red Notice was not put in place by Australia; the existence of the Interpol Red Notice would have come to the attention of Thai authorities when the person attempted to enter Thailand. Any action taken in response to the Interpol Red Notice is a matter for Thai authorities.”

This Department is headed by Australia’s most right-wing ministers who recently described parliament as an obstacle and disadvantage for government. PPT assumes that he would find kindred spirits in Thailandl’s military junta. In the past few days, a Greens Party senator in Australia, Jordon Steele-John, attacked the Department of Home Affairs secretary, describing him as:

a man of a dangerous right-wing disposition who has successfully created a department in his image and who now stands on the cusp of achieving a lifelong goal of empowering the Australian government with the ability to keep the general populace, who he regards as nothing more or less than helpless sheep, safe and sound….

While we don’t know much about Australia’s politics, but we get a picture of authoritarians working with authoritarians.





Activism and ingrained despotic paternalism

22 02 2017

Prachatai has a series of reports that deserve attention.

Anti-military base activism:

The military in southern Thailand have summoned villagers campaigning against a junta development project to a military base.

On 19 February 2017, the Assembly of the Poor, a civil society organisation advocating for marginalised communities in Thailand, reported via its Facebook page that 15 soldiers have visited villagers of Tha Sae District in the southern province of Chumphon.

Activists call for justice:

Human rights defenders accused by the military of criminal defamation for exposing torture in the Deep South have urged prosecutors to seek more witnesses.

On 21 February 2017, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF); Somchai Homla-or, Advisor to the CrCF; and Anchana Heemmina, President of the Duay Jai group, submitted a letter to the Prosecutor Office of the Deep Southern Province of Pattani.

The letter asked the prosecutors to demand police officers interrogate 14 more witnesses, reasoning that the police have only questioned some 10 witnesses even though there are more than 20 witnesses willing to testify in the three’s defence.

Activist calls for a counter-coup:

A leader of the recent protest against a coal-fired power plant has urged a high ranking general to stage a coup against the ruling junta if it does not keep its promise to postpone the power plant project.

On 20 February 2017, ML Rungkun Kitiyakara, one of the leaders of the recent protest at Government House, posted on his Facebook urging Army Region 1 Commander Lt Gen Apirat Kongsompong to side with protesters if the junta breaks its promise to delay the power plant project.

While the first two stories refer to political activism defending human rights, the final story suggests how yellow shirt activists continue to rely on the military. This is an elitist “activism” of rightists who seem unable to dispense with the military’s despotic paternalism.

That story went on, indicating the elitist activists identifying splits within the military:

Rungkun posted that if the junt[a] pushes the power plan project forward, he will ask for more than bus tickets.

“I believe the junta won’t dare to break the agreement. But if it does… in addition to the bus tickets, there’s a high chance that we will need your [Apirat’s] tanks,” read Rungkun’s post.

[Ultra-nationalist yellow shirt] Veera Somkwamkid, the secretary-general of Anti-Corruption Network and an opponent to the power plant project, also posted a similar message on his Facebook.

“Dear ‘Daeng’ (Apirat’s nickname), I believe you’re a soldier, a soldier of the King. If the junta betrays the people and the nation, you will not let it remain in power and keep ruining the country, will you? You will not disappoint the people, right?”

The monarchism expressed here reinforces political notions of despotic paternalism.





Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

26 07 2016

Torture, intimidation, repression and oppression are the stock-in-trade of the military in Thailand, under all regime types. As we often do, we reproduce an urgent appeal from the Cross Cultural Foundation, forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-FUA-006-2016

25 July 2016

THAILAND: Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

ISSUES: Human rights defenders; Military; Rule of law; Threats and intimidation; Torture

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to forward an appeal from the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) regarding the three human rights defenders who are to meet with an inquiry official at the Muang Pattani Police Station on July 26 in the defamation case filed against them by the ISOC Region 4 Forward as a result of their launching a torture report about the Deep South.

For more information, please contact:
1. Mr. Abdulawae Puteh +66 81 898 7408 Attorney of the three alleged offenders
2. Mr. Preeda Nakphew +66 89 622 2474 CrCF’s attorney
3. Ms. Nutthasiri Bergman +66 85 12 08077 CrCF’s attorney

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
—————————— —————————— ———–
THAILAND: Military must end judicial harassment of human rights defenders

On 17 May 2016, the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4) has reported a case with the inquiry official at the Muang Pattani Police Station alleging that Mr. Somchai Homlaor, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Ms. Anchana Heemmina, three human rights defenders, had committed criminal defamation and a violation of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.

The three rights defenders were accused of publishing and distributing a report on the torture and ill, degrading and inhumane treatment in the Deep South between 2014 and 2015 and for bringing into the computer system false information via the website https://voicefromthais. wordpress.com/. The summons were issued for them since 8 June 2016, and they were supposed to turn themselves in on 26 June 2016, though they had asked to postpone it to 26 July 2016.

On 26 July 2016, the three defenders will meet Pol Lt Col Winyou Thiamrat, inquiry official of the Muang Pattani Police Station to hear the charges against them and carry with their defence later on.

The report “Torture and ill treatment in The Deep South Documented in 2014-2015” was an attempt to echo the situation in the local area and by doing so, the three HRDs hope it will help to solve the problem of torture in the Deep South. Since the start of unrest, a range of special laws have been enforced including Martial Law and the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergency B.E. 2548 (2005) to bestow on the authorities extra power to carry out the arrest and detention of people. Even though it aims to quell insurgency, but undeniably, it has also led to the situation in which some officials have executed their power arbitrarily giving rise to the acts of torture and/or violations of rights and liberties in various forms. The facts are attested to be incidences of tortures committed by state officials as reported now and then including some suspects in security related cases have been found dead while in military custody or other official custody. If the problem fails to be tackled, it will simply ramp up more violence in the Deep South.

This case has attracted extensive attention from national and international rights organizations since the three activists have been playing important roles in the protection of human rights in the Deep South for a long time. Still, they are being taken to court by the authorities. It will also be another test of the Thai judicial system as to how much understanding they have toward the roles of HRDs and the issue of torture in Thailand.

Thank you.

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





AI launches urgent campaign for human rights activists

21 06 2016

Amnesty International has launched a an urgent action appeal for three human rights activists who face up to five years’ imprisonment and fines of up to 300,000 baht for their documentation of the use of  torture by state authorities in Thailand.

The three activists, Somchai Homlaor, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Anchana Heemmina “face charges of criminal defamation and for committing computer crimes for their documentation, and online publication, of reports of torture by the Royal Thai Army and Royal Thai Police in Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces.”

AI has a PDF that can be downloaded with background information and the details of how to join the campaign.





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)





Don’t hold your breath III

19 02 2016

A few days ago Khaosod reported small group who “stoically push on, deliberating what should be amended in nearly every article of law proposed for the kingdom’s future. While they could almost be mistaken for members of the junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee, they are not.”

No

An earlier photo from a Chulalongkorn University seminar with students displaying their opposition to the junta-sponsored draft charter

They are described as “shadow framers,” who believe “their parallel process of deliberation is one they are duty-bound to complete and essential to a functioning democracy.”

Lawyer Somchai Homlaor says: “I don’t have any hope that what we propose will have any impact on them…”.

They are suggesting improvements to the flawed and dictatorial draft. Some of them believe that “all is not lost.” Don’t hold your breath.

What about the idea of a people’s constitution, actually drawn up by real people rather than junta stooges?





Torture routinized

9 02 2016

About a week ago, PPT posted on torture as a standard operating procedure for state authorities. In that post we linked to a Prachatai report on allegations of torture and ill-treatment in the South expanding under the military dictatorship. The allegations, reported by former detainees were of being “beaten or hit with hard objects, … put in a room kept at a low temperature, … suffocated, and … electrocuted.” Others said they were “pierced with needles, tortured with pliers, forced to drink their own urine, stripped naked, injected with unspecified chemicals, tortured in the genitals, and threatened with execution.”

A few days later, the Internal Security Operations Command claimed the report on the use of torture was a work “of imagination not based on reality…” and accused its authors as having “released the report of … to undermine the credibility of the Thai state in the eyes of the world.”

A second report alleging torture has been released. Khaosod reports that the new report is also based on “interviews with former detainees” in the south and was to be “released Wednesday by the Cross Cultural Foundation, Network of Human Rights Organizations in Pattani and Dua Jai Group…”. The 120-page report can be downloaded as a PDF, in Thai.

The report alleges systematic “[t]orture ranging from waterboarding and strangling to threats of violence and sexual assault are used systematically by the army and police to force confessions from suspected insurgents in the Deep South…”. It also notes the impunity enjoyed by criminal officials: “… no single security officer has even gone to jail during the past decade over cases involving torture.”

The response from ISOC is reported:

Col. Pramote Promin, spokesman for the Internal Security Operation Command, or ISOC, said they had not seen the report but dismissed it as yet another figment of its authors’ imaginations. He also accused one of its principal authors, foundation Director Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, of wanting to discredit the army and state.

Equally disturbingly, “human rights lawyer Somchai Hom-laor, another figure behind the report, said some torture techniques are now being adopted against ordinary Thais elsewhere in the kingdom who are believed to be threats to national security.” He might have mentioned deaths in custody in the south and in Bangkok’s political prisons.

Somchai is no ordinary commentator. He has been supportive of some yellow-shirted causes in the past and was a member of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission set up by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. At the same time, he has been a human rights lawyer for a very long time. These connections and history cause him to be careful in dealing with the junta: “We don’t want to condemn them or create hatred but want them to rectify the situation because it is undermining the state itself…”.

Torture by the state’s officers is routinized in Thailand, as a string of our posts indicate.





Further updated: Royalists attack royalists

18 10 2014

Lese majeste is most often used to silence critics of the monarchy and other political opponents who cause fear amongst mad monarchists that their world is crumbling around them. Rarely is it used by royalists against other royalists. When it has been used in this way, it has been against Sulak Sivaraksa. We are losing count of the times this iconoclastic and conservative royalist has been subject to lese majeste allegations. We think this is the fifth charge accepted by the police.

Prachatai reports that two ultra-royalist generals have filed a lese majeste complaint against Sulak for a speech he made about King Naresuan, a historical figure considered important for the royalist mythology about Thailand.

SulakOn 16 October 2014, Lt Gen Padung Niwatwan and Lt Gen Pittaya Vimalin filed the complaint at Chanasongkram Police Station accusing Sulak of “defaming” the former king during a public speech on “Thai History: the Construction and Deconstruction” on 5 October at Thammasat University, Bangkok. It is reported that in the speech, Sulak claimed the legend of an elephant battle between Naresuan and a Burmese king was constructed and he criticized the king of some 400 years ago for being cruel.

It might be considered that “defaming” a figure from ancient history, for who there is only  scant reliable historical information, might be a nonsense. It might be considered that the historical records that do exist tend to support Sulak’s interpretation. However, this may not amount to anything before the madness of the royalist courts in Thailand. “Insulting” dead kings has led to jail for a defendant who made mention of the reign of King Mongkut involving people in slavery, a clear historical and undisputed fact, but implying that there was no freedom in that period. This was deemed an insult.

Even if Sulak is right – see here, here (opens a PDF) and here (opens a PDF) – many royalists cannot forgive Sulak for his outspokenness on monarchy and the lese majeste law.

Update 1: We fixed the links in the previous paragraph.

Update 2: We were confused by the claim made at the Bangkok Post attributed to “[h]uman rights lawyer Somchai Homlaor” who made the factually incorrect claim that “a person would be charged with lese majeste only if he or she defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir apparent or the regent…”. We agree that this is what the law says, but when he adds that the “law is unlikely to apply to a historical monarch such as King Naresuan,” we think he is neglecting the case mentioned above where a man was jailed for a claim considered to “defame” a historical king.





Judicial harassment

17 09 2014

PPT received the following urgent appeal from the AHRC. It refers to Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor of the Cross Cultural Foundation. Somchai is well known as a former member of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s Truth for Reconciliation Commission.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-133-2014

17 September 2014

THAILAND: End judicial harassment of human rights defenders

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

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that the judicial harassment of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor, long-standing and prominent human rights defenders and director and chairperson, respectively, of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) in Thailand, is ongoing. They have been accused of defaming the army and face potential legal prosecution for their work documenting instances of torture and advocating on behalf of victims.

CASE NARRATIVE: As we described in an earlier statement (AHRC-STM-164-2014), on 24 August 2014, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor, long-time human rights defenders and director and chairperson, respectively, of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), received warrants summoning them to report to the Yala police by 25 August 2014. Initially, Pornpen and Somchai postponed their reporting to the Tatong police station in Raman district in Yala province until 10 am on 14 September. On 10 September, this was postponed indefinitely at the request of the police investigator. The warrants are in relation to an investigation carried out pursuant to a legal complaint of libel and defamation filed against them by Paramilitary Unit 41. The complaint accuses CrCF of causing damage to the reputation of the Army by disseminating an open letter about a case of torture carried out in southern Thailand.

CrCF was established in 2002 to work on justice and the protection, promotion and monitoring of human rights in Thailand. CrCF’s philosophy and activities are focused on strengthening human rights and delivering sustainable judicial reform throughout society, both top-down and bottom-up. CrCF has a long, well-respected track record of supporting marginalised people such as ethnic minority groups, stateless people, migrant workers and victims of conflict in their struggles for accountability in cases of torture, enforced disappearance, and other human rights violations. Since the declaration of martial law in southern Thailand in January 2004, CrCF has been at the forefront of documenting and calling for justice in cases of torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killing, and other human rights violations. The work of the organization, and especially the work carried out by Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, is in the service of education citizens about their rights, recording rights violations, and pushing for accountability and redress. As part of this work, they routinely document cases and aid victims in filing both formal complaints and disseminating this information to the public via the media. In this case, the complaint was filed by Paramilitary Unit 41 after an open letter which detailed a case of torture of a young man in Yala circulated in public (Some of the details of the open letter were published online by Isra News Agency here). The Army has claimed that the young man was not tortured, and so therefore the open letter constitutes libel and defamation. In response, on 8th May 2014, the ISOC, the Royal Thai Police, and others – including doctors, examined the victim of the alleged assault, and produced a press release stating that an investigation had been carried out which had found that the allegation of assault was untrue. The press release went on to say that CRCF should be held responsible for intentionally distorting the truth and spreading false statements to the public.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The judicial harassment of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet is part of a broader pattern of harassment and legal proceedings carried out against those who expose torture, call for accountability and defend human rights in Thailand. The Government of Thailand acceded to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading or Inhuman Treatment (CAT) on 2 October 2007. As a state party to the CAT, Thailand is obligated to take action to prevent torture, hold perpetrators to account, and provide redress and protection to victims of torture. The AHRC has noted that this is not always the case, such as in the criminal prosecution of Suderueman Maleh, a survivor of torture in southern Thailand, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2011 after he brought a torture complaint against a police officer who was later cleared of responsibility (AHRC-STM-103-2011). Similarly, when Kritsuda Khunasen, who was arbitrarily detained for nearly a month following the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order, released two video interviews detailed her torture and abuse while in military custody, the junta’s response was to threaten and discredit her (AHRC-STM-151-2014). The appropriate response in all of these cases would be for the military and government to initiate independent investigations into torture.

SUGGESTED ACTION: Please write letters to the authorities below, asking them to immediately cease the judicial harassment and end any ongoing investigation of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet and Somchai Homlaor 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 seeking his urgent intervention into this matter.





With a major update: Suspicion

13 09 2014

There have been a remarkable number of reports in various media in recent days of the miraculous police action that has netted one woman and four men alleged to have been “men in black” and claimed to have “confessed” to attacking military and other targets in April 2010.

This is not the first miracle worked by the police since the May 2014 military coup. The miracle worker was, in several such cases, the gold miner businessman and now police boss General Somyos Pumpanmuang. Several of the cases seemed to fade as fast as the miracle was produced.

MIB

A Bangkok Post photo

If that isn’t reason enough for some skepticism, the sight of the police dressing the detainees in black clothing, attaching red armbands and ribbons to them, forcing them to wear balaclavas, and having them “re-enact” alleged “crimes,” including taking them to the streets and having them pose with grenade launchers and assault weapons is completely bizarre and legally fraught.

The first report PPT saw was in the Bangkok Post, where the police already had the detainees were already in fancy dress.

Despite the fact that, at the time the so-called men in black were “identified” as “responsible” for actions against the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime the police and military were under the control of pro-Abhisit commanders, no suspects were captured and convicted and there were precious few video or photo images of the MiBs.

They lived on in military and royalist lore as “responsible” for all the killings in 2010. As The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha and other military brass have said many times, the military did not kill anyone. The courts have disagreed with this in several cases. Even when anti-democrats were violent in 2013 and 2014, they blamed mysterious MiBs. Such claims were demonstrated to be false, concocted for political purposes and to take the heat off the violence of the royalist anti-democrats.

This is not the first time that authorities have claimed to have identified the “perpetrators.” A sub-committee of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission headed by the compromised Somchai Homlaor stated that it had “identified” MiBs. We posted:

In its report on the 2010 Battle for Bangkok, Somchai Homlaor, who headed the investigating sub-committee, said the commission had “found connections between the ‘men in black’ and security guards of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship in at least two clashes with authorities at Kok Wua intersection near the Democracy Monument and the Pratunam area on April 10, 2010.” He adds that “many” of the men in black “were found to be close to Maj Gen Khattiya…”. He added that the commission did “not have evidence to conclude whether they had a connection with UDD key figures…”.

If they did, there was little follow-up and no naming of names.

Prayuth once reportedly stated: “I do not know whether there were men in black or not, but soldiers and police were injured and killed in those clashes…”. The Democrat Party and Abhisit have been sure, and have repeatedly campaigned about MiBs, but their government never found any. Abhisit has repeatedly claimed that MiBs were responsible for all deaths.

That first report in the Bangkok Post stated that the recent arrests saw Somchai Sawaengkarn resurrected the claim that it was only MiBs who were responsible for “killing of soldiers and civilians during political unrest in 2010…”. He added that the arrests might “lead to the identification of those responsible for masterminding the violence…”. He essentially means Thaksin Shinawatra, who he blames for all Thailand’s ills including heavy rainfall. Somchai is of dubious character: a member of the puppet National Legislative Assembly, he was also an unelected senator. He is a huge supporter of anti-democrats.

The police claimed that all “five suspects have admitted involvement in the violence that led to the killing of soldiers near Democracy Monument in April 2010.”

The report states that these suspects “were taken into custody on Tuesday but the arrests were only made public yesterday. They have all been charged with illegally carrying and using guns, bullets and bombs.” In fact, one of those arrested was a “red shirt activist who went missing after he was arrested by soldiers last week…”. He was “arrested by soldiers on 5 September and held incommunicad0 for almost a week while the military denied having him in their custody, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Wednesday.”

The police also implicated now-exiled red shirt activist Kritsuda Khunasen saying that the raids on her house “found clear evidence relating to the transfer of large sums of money to the five suspects, although he declined to reveal how much.”

Within hours, the police and the military dictatorship has sought to condemn those arrested. Police General Somyos also defended his arrest of the suspects. He said he has “solid evidence,” but didn’t say anything much about it.

Somyos declared that he “would not argue with red shirts who insisted there were no ‘men in black’ among their ranks.”

Meanwhile, The Dictator stated that he would not comment on the case. As usual, though, he was unable to control himself. He “warned people behind the fatal attacks during the political unrest to … turn themselves in because he has all of their names in his hands.”

He claimed to have “the names of the supporters and financiers of the violent attacks in 2010 as well as those in 2013 and this year, and he urged them to report to authorities. Some are inside the country and some had fled abroad,” as if to blame red shirts yet again. He promised to prosecute and name “those who provided support for the acquisition of such weapons, including their financing…”.

Update: Somewhat belatedly, the mainstream media has decided to raise questions about facts and process involved in this case. As is usual in the Bangkok Post, it has a story that cites a single anonymous source as if that source is unimpeachably reliable. That source claims: “The DSI source said the agency has files on all of the alleged ‘men in black’, but the probe ground to a halt when the Yingluck Shinawatra government was elected in July 2011…. A ‘powerful politician’ in the since-deposed government laid out a guideline for the DSI that the so-called men in black did not exist and there was no armed element, the source alleged.” This is initially plausible, but only until one asks why the DSI did not act against these suspects when the Abhisit regime was in control and backed by the military?

The claim comes as “rights groups label … a press conference in which the suspects were forced to dress in black paramilitary attire as a publicity stunt likely to rob them of the chance of a fair trial.”

The People’s Information Centre pointed out that “there was no compelling evidence linking them to the nine deaths on Din So Road…”. It adds that “[t]hree of the four military casualties … on Din So Road were as a result of grenade blasts, according to … an inquest, not from gun fire as claimed by police on Thursday.”

As noted above, the police have accused exiled red shirt Kritsuda of financing the suspects. She has responded that, at the time of the events, she was 23 year-old. She asks General Somyos: “How can you accuse me without feeling ashamed of yourself?”At the conclusion of this Post story there is a brief mention of how the police decided to track those they now say are guilty: “Soldiers ‘remembered him’ [one of the suspects] from when he and the others allegedly rode in a van past an army Humvee on April 11, 2010.” On that day, the soldiers were in disarray and retreated when they tear-gassed themselves and when faced with red shirt resistance. They fled leaving behind weapons and other equipment. It seems dubious at best that memories of that day could be clear.

The Bangkok Post also has an editorial that comments on the case. It states: “The presentation of the suspected ‘men in black’ last week raises more questions about justice in Thailand under the military regime than it answers.” It continues to raise questions about dressing the men up and having them “re-enact” events that they may not have been involved in. It says: “The questions raised by this series of events are myriad and troubling…. The use of re-enactments is troubling and would be considered highly prejudicial in a legal system that relied on juries.”

On the arrests it asks: “what was that evidence? Who handled the interviews? How can we be certain the confessions were genuine?” It adds that the “suspects are still just that — suspects. They are all entitled to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial and they are entitled to be treated equally under the law.”

Of course, under the military dictatorship, the law is but a tool for those who rule.

Oddly, when the Post editorial concludes, it does so in a curious manner: “The families of those killed by the men in black in April 2010 deserve to know the right people have been brought to justice, and that can only happen in an open, transparent and accountable system.” In making this statement, it is neglecting the red shirts who were murdered by the military commanders who now rule the country.