Tortured confessions

27 09 2018

As we have posted previously, torture is a standard practice among Thailand’s police and military when dealing with “suspects.” A year or so ago we had this:

… the Bangkok Post reported on the military dictatorship’s puppet National Legislative Assembly having “dropped legislation to criminalise torture and disappearances after years of working on the bill…”.

The United Nations Human Rights Office and NGOs reported on this.

Because Thailand has long been dominated by the military, torture is not only “not a criminal offence … and perpetrators cannot be prosecuted,” but it is essentially standard practice among the military and police.

Torture as used by the current regime ranges from the blatant use of torture such as beating, choking and electric shocks when persons are taken into custody to deliberately delayed, long, drawn-out and secret trials of lese majeste suspects who are often shackled.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post commented on another case of tortured confessions being accepted by the courts. It says the ruling on Tuesday, means “the legitimacy and transparency of the military’s unusual role in the justice process has again been questioned.”

The court “convicted nine young Muslim men of plotting to set off a car bomb in the capital, based mainly on confessions made during their detention in military camps.” As we know, in most “political” cases, it is now normalized for “suspects” to be held in communicado at a military base, for them to interrogated and sometimes tortured. Some “suspects” have died in custody.

In the case of these men, they have “testified earlier they were tortured into making false confessions.” The other evidence seems to have been more-or-less non-existent.

These men say that “[d]uring their detention in military camps … they were punched, head-locked, doused or sprayed with water, or locked in cold rooms to force them into making confessions.”

The editorial observes that such “military interrogation is made possible by two orders issued by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) — No. 3/2015 and No. 13/2016 — which allow soldiers to arrest and detain suspects in national security cases for up to seven days without granting them access to lawyers or any other legal rights guaranteed by the normal justice process.”

It adds that over the junta’s period of dictatorship. “there have been at least 18 known cases involving allegations of torture during detention at military camps.” That’s an under-estimate. Of course, “these claims have never been seriously probed by an independent body.”

The culture of impunity allows such horrid practices normal.





Updated: A sorry story of military repression

24 04 2018

We all know that Thailand is under the military boot. The US State Department’s 2017 human rights report is now out and chronicles some aspects of the natur of military repression. We summarize and quote some parts of the report below. A general statement worth considering is this:

In addition to limitations on civil liberties imposed by the NCPO, the other most significant human rights issues included: excessive use of force by government security forces, including harassing or abusing criminal suspects, detainees, and prisoners; arbitrary arrests and detention by government authorities; abuses by government security forces confronting the continuing ethnic Malay-Muslim insurgency in the southernmost provinces…; corruption; sexual exploitation of children; and trafficking in persons.

As the report notes:

Numerous NCPO decrees limiting civil liberties, including restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press, remained in effect during the year. NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which replaced martial law in March 2015, grants the military government sweeping power to curb “acts deemed harmful to national peace and stability.”

The military junta continues to detain civilians in military prisons. Some prisoners are still shackled in heavy chains.

Impunity and torture are mentioned several times as a major issue. This is important when it is noted that the number of “suspects” killed by authorities doubled in 2017.

Approximately 2,000 persons have been summoned, arrested and detained by the regime, including academics, journalists, politicians and activists. There are also “numerous reports of security forces harassing citizens who publicly criticized the military government.” Frighteningly,

NCPO Order 13/2016, issued in March 2016, grants military officers with the rank of lieutenant and higher power to summon, arrest, and detain suspects; conduct searches; seize assets; suspend financial transactions; and ban suspects from traveling abroad in cases related to 27 criminal offenses, including extortion, human trafficking, robbery, forgery, fraud, defamation, gambling, prostitution, and firearms violation. The order also grants criminal, administrative, civil, and disciplinary immunity to military officials executing police authority in “good faith.”

Too often detainees are prevented from having legal representation and are refused bail.

The use of military courts continues:

In a 2014 order, the NCPO redirected prosecutions for offenses against the monarchy, insurrection, sedition, weapons offenses, and violation of its orders from civilian criminal courts to military courts. In September 2016 the NCPO ordered an end to the practice, directing that offenses committed by civilians after that date would no longer be subject to military court jurisdiction. According to the Judge Advocate General’s Office, military courts initiated 1,886 cases involving at least 2,408 civilian defendants since the May 2014 coup, most commonly for violations of Article 112 (lese majeste); failure to comply with an NCPO order; and violations of the law controlling firearms, ammunition, and explosives. As of October approximately 369 civilian cases involving up to 450 individual defendants remained pending before military courts.

On lese majeste, the reports cites the Department of Corrections that says “there were 135 persons detained or imprisoned…”.

Censorship by the junta is extensive, with the regime having “restricted content deemed critical of or threatening to it [national security and the monarchy], and media widely practiced self-censorship.” It is added that the junta “continued to restrict or disrupt access to the internet and routinely censored online content. There were reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.” In dealing with opponents and silencing them, the junta has used sedition charges.

Restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression are extensive against those it deems political activists. This repression extends to the arts and academy:

The NCPO intervened to disrupt academic discussions on college campuses, intimidated scholars, and arrested student leaders critical of the coup. Universities also practiced self-censorship…. In June [2017] soldiers removed artwork from two Bangkok galleries exhibiting work depicting the 2010 military crackdown on protesters, which authorities deemed a threat to public order and national reconciliation.

It is a sorry story.

Update: The Bangkok Post has a timely editorial on torture in Thailand. Usually it is the police and military accused and guilty. This time it is the Corrections Department, which runs almost all of Thailand’s prisons. All these officials are cut from the same cloth.





Senior policeman denies association with philosophical thought

1 03 2018

Here we refer to the policeman’s intelligence and a report in Khaosod.

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and two of his colleagues have translated and published “Messages to Our Century: Three Essays of Isaiah Berlin.” Sir Isaiah Berlin died in 1997 and was one of the 20th century’s most respected intellectuals. He was a social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas, often associated with ideas of political liberalism.

Back in early February, Netiwit met with deputy police commissioner Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul when he and other activists “heard charges against them at Pathum Wan Police Station.” Netiwit later posted a photo of himself handing Srivara the book. He added: “He even asked me to sign the book for him…. I thought that he would actually read it…”.

Later, Netiwit posted that “multiple police officers had called him to order the book on Srivara’s recommendation,” claiming that the top cop said: “this is a good book, guys [police officers]. Do you have it [the book] yet?”

Pol Gen Srivara has now gone ballistic. For “allegedly using a false anecdote about him to promote the sale of a book he translated,” he’s filed a complaint against Netiwit claiming defamation and computer crimes. Srivara has stated that while he kept the book he didn’t read it.

The policeman has clearly thought shallowly about this and decided it would be unprofessional for any police officer to be caught engaging in deep thought about ethics, philosophy or liberty. Clearly, philosophy is not something that Thailand’s police can afford to be associated with. The force’s defining characteristics are anti-intellectual and involve nepotism, corruption, murder and torture, and such characteristics should not be tainted by association with philosophy.





The Dictator’s “human rights”

27 01 2018

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs thinks it can “refute” Human Rights Watch report on the dire situation of human rights under the military junta.

Junta toadies at the Ministry declare that the HRW report “generally contains sweeping and ungrounded allegations as well as politically biased accusations. Like last year’s report, the narrative missed the prevailing facts on the ground and intentionally ignored progresses, positive developments and efforts undertaken by the Thai Government.” They mean the military dictatorship.

The Ministry seems particularly miffed that HRW has not accepted junta propaganda:

In fact, since last year, the Foreign Ministry has set up a regular channel to interact with a number of civil society organizations, including HRW in Thailand. At the meetings, representatives from National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) as well as agencies concerned participated and sincerely exchanged views and information. Regrettably, information provided at those meetings which can readily clarify many points raised in the report have not found its way to HRW writers who may sit elsewhere across the world drafting the report, ignoring once again positive developments on the ground. Worse, in reality, it is more often than not disregarded.

The idea the Ministry toadies are purveying is that HRW doesn’t understand Thailand because it is not “on the ground” and its writers “sit elsewhere.” This is nonsense, but the minions are promoting Thai-ism.

And it is a Thai-ism that is promoted as a form of human rights. Presumably only Thais of the appropriate political color will recognize Thai-style human rights in a developing Thai-style democracy.

Then the Ministry propagandists provide instances of the military dictatorship’s promotion of human rights:

The new Constitution of 2017, which passed national referendum at 61% approval rate in August 2016, reaffirms Thailand’s human rights commitment by underlining the principles of equal rights and protection under the law, non-discrimination, prohibition of torture, and freedom of religious beliefs, among others. It also upholds the rule of law, stipulates the administration of justice and the provision of legal assistance to ensure better access to justice for all.

Need we say that the referendum was neither free nor fair? Should we point out that the regime banned any campaigning against the referendum? Should we add that some people are still in court and charged with offenses meted out to them for even reporting and observing opposition to the junta’s constitution? Is it necessary to point out that “on the ground”there is discrimination, torture by police and military and that the rule of law is a hastily cobbled together sham and joke underpinned by double standards? Is it necessary to observe that freedom of expression and assembly are highly and bluntly repressed?

The Ministry is right that cases previously before the “Military Court have all been transferred under the Judicial Court of Justice, if committed on or after 12 September 2016.” But that last phrase is important as military courts continue to hear cases from before that date. Military courts are often held in secret and are a travesty of justice.

The Ministry claims that:

… under the instruction of the Prime Minister, the Committee to Receive Complaints and Investigate Allegations of Torture and Enforced Disappearance was established in June 2017 with the mandates to receive complaints, perform fact finding, provide assistance and remedies, and protect the rights of people affected by acts of torture or enforced disappearance.

But it just doesn’t happen.The military repeatedly rounds up individuals and spirits them away. Even if this is only for a few days, it is a practice that reeks of despotism.

Worse than enforced disappearance is extrajudicial murder. The sad case of Chaiyapoom Pasae is just one where the military, involved in the murder, conceals evidence. We probably don’t need to mention the many cases of military recruits and serving junior soldiers being beaten, tortured and killed. For the military and the junta, such things are “normal.”

The toadies then talk about the “enactment of the National Human Rights Commission Act.” The NHRC is dismissed by most observers as a now meaningless institution.

We could go on and on, but let’s just observe that the junta and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs actually condone human rights abuses and that their record is deplorable. For an accurate account of the junta’s human rights abuses in 2017, supported with numerous examples, read the HRW report.





Military hierarchy and the need for violence

24 11 2017

As readers will know, reports of the unusual deaths of recruits to the Thai military are common. Pictures of naked recruits being forced to engage in degrading activities and other pictures of recruits who have been beaten and bashed are all over social media.

We hadn’t posted on the most recent case, despite its grotesque details, as it was one case among many. However, this case has taken an unusual political turn as the dead recruit and his family had promoted their support of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, the group that supported and encouraged the 2014 military coup. The dead recruit did not come from the draft, but was at the “prestigious” Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.

Prachatai reported that Cadet Phakhaphong Tanyakan may have been beaten to death. At least his parents thought this and secreted away his body for an independent autopsy after the military stated he died of sudden cardiac arrest.

The independent autopsy revealed that several of the cadet’s internal organs were missing, including his brain. The media reported the parent’s shock but then seemed to confirm that returning a body sans organs is “normal” and “not illegal.”

His parents were criticized for wanting another autopsy and not accepting the military’s explanation of his death.

While the junta has now had the “chief of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School has been transferred to an inactive post,” the initial response of the senior-most military thugs was to support “military discipline.” But even in replacing the former commander, the junta showed its intention to cover up by appointing a loyalist: “Col Benjapol Dechartwong Na Ayutthaya, deputy commander of the 21st Infantry Regiment, Queen’s Guard.”

Another Prachatai story had Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan “explaining” the death. He stated that “the freshman cadet … was … just too weak to withstand tough training.” Blaming the victim is the redoubt of fools and fascists.

He also supported the cadet school.

General Prawit also justified the “extreme discipline” at the school. He declared: “all soldiers have had to undergo such disciplinary measures, including himself.” He added: “I was once repaired more than I could take and I fainted too. I didn’t die.” That’s all okay then. Torturing your recruits is fine and dandy and if they die, it is their own weakness.

Prawit also indicated that “extreme discipline” would continue: “You don’t have to enrol. You don’t have to be a soldier. We want those who are willing.” Willing to be bashed, humiliated, and tortured. Those who survive can make coups and get unusually wealthy because they “learn” the hierarchy, accept it and move up, getting more loot and power at each level.

His view was supported by The Dictator, as reported in another Bangkok Post story. With the virtually moribund National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) actually making a statement that “harsh disciplining of cadets could constitute an act of torture…” under a law that is not in effect, Gen Prayuth said military bosses “would meet for talks the family of Pakapong … Tanyakan whose cadaver was later found to be missing organs including his brain.”

Prayuth mumbled that “military discipline for cadet training” was okay. He added: “Don’t worry. Nobody wants any losses or injuries…”. He used the same “logic” as Prawit: “he was disciplined when he studied at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.” He brainlessly added: “What’s wrong with it? I went through it all.”

That explains a considerable amount about Prayuth, Prawit and their dictatorship. Trained to accept torture as “discipline,” they are mentally crippled by their “education” to the extent that they think all Thais need “order” and “extreme discipline.”

On learning that the family were PDRC, Prayuth “apologised to the family and pledged to continue with the investigations to get to the bottom of the mystery.”

It isn’t a “mystery,” it is military discipline, establishing hierarchy and marking territory. The military does this with violence. This is also how they run the country: threats of violence and the use of violence. The deaths of citizens who get in the way is just collateral damage for the greater good and social order.





Still detained, law ignored

28 06 2017

Prachatai reports that what PPT calls the torture of lese majeste “suspects” continues unabated and is being applied to human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul.

For the sixth time, the Criminal Court has “refused to release a human rights lawyer facing up to 50 years in prison for royal defamation and sedition.” [Actually, as the report later states, he faces 171 years on lese majeste and sedition, but there’s a 50 year sentencing limit.]

On 26 June 2017, the Criminal Court in Bangkok renewed the pre-trial detention period for Prawet. He has now been held for two months, while the police “investigate.”

Of course, the aim is to wear down Prawet, forcing him to plead guilty.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) argued that “the case’s interrogation process is already complete.” It was also argued that “prolonging of the detention is against Article 29 of the 2017 Constitution, which in brief states that suspects of crimes have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

The error here is in thinking that any lese majeste case will be considered on the basis of law. As many cases have demonstrated, law is strikingly absent from these acts of political intimidation and repression.

As expected, the court ignored law and statements by the prosecution that the case was investigated and kept Prawet locked up.

Prawet was one of six people arrested by police and military officers on 29 April 2017. We have no further information on the other five.

All are accused of a variety of lese majeste, computer crimes and sedition offenses for “sharing a Facebook post about the missing 1932 revolution plaque by Somsak Jeamteerasakul…”.

The claim now heard is that “Prawet allegedly posted Facebook comments asserting that Thailand should become a republic.”

Thailand should be a republic.





Updated: Torture and lese majeste

27 06 2017

Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists reckon that “Thailand had pledged 10 years ago to respect and protect the rights of all people to be free from torture and other ill-treatment by ratifying the Convention against Torture. But the organisations said they remained concerned that torture remains prevalent.”

We don’t imagine that the two NGOs are surprised. After all, Thailand’s military and police use torture regularly and as standard practice. They even use it when training their own recruits. It is just normal for the thugs.

One form of torture that seems relatively new relates to lese majeste. A few years ago, at about the time that the then government was “pledging” to end torture, royalist thugs came up with the idea of keeping those accused of lese majeste in jail until they confessed.

This form of torture has been refined. Now, those accused of lese majeste are kept out of courts until they confess. If they don’t confess, then court proceedings dragged out over months and even years, are secret. Sometimes not even family or lawyers know about the court date. Sometimes not even the defendant knows and courts take decisions without the defendant or a lawyer present.

Royalist courts are never going to provide justice in lese majeste cases. However, a guilty plea means the courts don’t even have to deal with the case. All they do is sentencing.

The most recent example of this kind of lese majeste torture involves a 59 year old man who has been locked up for three years until he finally entered a guilty plea.

The report says he faces up to 50 years in jail, but this is wrong (a point made later in the report) for it accepts that the sentence will likely reduced by half for his guilty plea and because Thailand “limits” sentences to 50 years. In fact, the nonsensical nature of lese majeste should be emphasized by noting that he could be sentenced to more than 100 years in jail.

On 26 June 2017, the “Military Court in Bangkok postponed the sentencing of Tara W., a 59-year-old seller of Thai traditional medicine accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, after he pleaded guilty.” He will now be sentenced on 9 August 2017.

Tara W. is one of the Banpot 6/8/10/14 (the number varied as arrests were made). He and another decided to fight the case (we don’t know any more about the other defendant). Tara sold traditional medicine but was accused of being the “owner of a tourism website, okthai.com, which is now blocked by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.” It is even blocked overseas. [Update: Not blocked. Thanks to a reader for directing us.] Blocking seems to mean taking down but maintaining a blocked notice. We hope the regime is paying for the domain name.

As the report states, a “tiny corner of the website allegedly contained a banner with a link promoting the programmes of Hassadin U., also known as ‘DJ Banpodj’, the head of the so-called Banpodj Network, which has allegedly produced podcasts criticising the monarchy.”

Tara faces six lese majeste charges and other charges under the Computer Crime Act.

He had claimed that he “only uploaded them [the clips] for their information on traditional medicine.” He was arrested on 25 January 2015 and has remained in jail since.

That constitutes torture. There’s several other human rights mangled by the case, but readers should understand that this is now standard practice in royalist Thailand.