Updated: Torture, murder

25 08 2019

Back at the end of July, Prachatai reported that “Abdullah Isomuso, 32, was admitted to the intensive care unit of Pattani Hospital on 21 July after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Ingkhayutthaborihan Military Camp in Pattani.” At the hospital he was reportedly unresponsive.

He had been “detained under Martial Law on 20 July for suspected involvement in unknown insurgent activity, after a group of military officers searched his house in Sai Buri District…”.

Police were said to be “investigating,” and “went to the Inquiry Unit at the Ingkhayutthaborihan Military Camp to gather evidence.” However, as usual, “when they asked to see footage from the CCTV cameras inside the Inquiry Unit, officials at the camp said that all of the cameras were broken.”

It is “standard procedure” in cases where there are deaths in custody or alleged murders by the military for the military to claim the cameras are broken or even to conceal the evidence provided by CCTV.

Civil society groups “express[ed] concerns that Abdullah might have been subjected to torture while in detention.”

Meanwhile, those who came to visit Abdullah at the hospital were photographed by police.

Now, Abdullah has died, with the Bangkok Post reporting that this death resulted “from injuries sustained during an interrogation by security authorities.” That suggests that he was indeed tortured.

While “Col Pramote Prom-in, the spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command’s Region 4 Forward Command, on Sunday confirmed the death of Abdulloh and promised transparency in the inquiry into his fate,” this seems impossible. After all, there has almost never been a case of official torturers and murderers being seriously investigated or held to account.

The authorities operate with impunity.

Update: There’s been quite a media storm over this case. Worth considering are:





“New” regime tramples rights

3 08 2019

A few days ago this statement was posted by Human Rights Watch. We reproduce it in full:

Thailand: New Government Disregards Rights
Policy Statement Fails to Address Major Concerns

(New York) – The new Thai government’s policy statement fails to provide a pathway for restoring respect for human rights after five years of military rule, Human Rights Watch said today. Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha will present the policy statement for his second term in office on July 25-26, 2019.“Prime Minister Prayuth’s second term is starting with the same blanket disregard for human rights that characterized his first term,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “His policy statement contains no language whatsoever addressing the serious problems under repressive military rule since the 2014 coup. Whatever hopes that the new government would bring about human rights reforms and advance democratic, civilian rule suffered a serious setback with the failure to include any commitments in the policy statement.”

Prayuth’s 40-page policy statement, which was submitted to the parliament speaker on July 19, does not discuss human rights issues in the country. It does not even discuss Prayuth’s own “national human rights agenda,” which he released in February 2018 with much fanfare.

Key civil and political rights problems that need to be addressed by the new government include:

Impunity for Human Rights Violations

As chairman of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta, Prayuth wielded power from 2014-2019 unhindered by administrative, legislative, or judicial oversight or accountability, including for human rights violations. While the NCPO disbanded after the new government took office, the constitution that took effect in 2017 protects junta members and anyone acting on the junta’s orders from being held accountable for human rights violations committed during military rule. And no redress is available for victims of those rights violations.

Restrictions on Freedom of Expression

The NCPO prosecuted hundreds of activists, journalists, politicians, and dissidents for peacefully expressing their views, on serious criminal charges such as sedition, computer-related crimes, and insulting the monarchy. During Prayuth’s first term, the junta frequently used these overbroad laws to arbitrarily punish and silence critics. Under the new government, the military retains the power to summon anyone deemed to have criticized the government or the monarchy, question them without the presence of a lawyer, and compel them to promise to end their criticism to gain release.

Protection of Human Rights Defenders

A climate of fear persists among rights activists and critics of the government. Even those who fled Thailand to escape political persecution are not safe. At least three Thai political activists have been forcibly disappeared in Laos. Two others have been killed. Another three Thai political activists returned by Vietnam to Thailand have also been missing.

Successive governments have disregarded Thailand’s obligation to ensure that all human rights defenders and organizations can carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment. Against the backdrop of a recent string of brutal attacks targeting prominent pro-democracy activists and dissidents, the government has yet to develop a credible policy to better protect them. Thai authorities have not seriously investigated these attacks, and instead repeatedly told activists and dissidents to give up political activity in exchange for state protection.

During his first term, Prayuth frequently stated that Thailand would act to end so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), which are used by government agencies and private companies to intimidate and silence those reporting human rights violations. However, these cases continue, frequently as criminal defamation cases. Prayuth’s policy statement makes no mention of Thailand’s much advertised commitment to promote business practices compatible with human rights standards.

The policy statement also does not address the urgent need to revamp the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. The United Nations Human Rights Council has downgraded the commission because of its substandard selection process for commissioners and its lack of political independence. Revisions to the law adopted during Prayuth’s first term further weakened the commission and transformed it into a de facto government mouthpiece.

Enforced Disappearance, Torture, Violence, and Abuses in Southern Border Provinces

Since January 2004, more than 90 percent of the 6,800 people killed in the ongoing armed conflict in Thailand’s southern border provinces have been civilians from both ethnic Malay Muslim and ethnic Thai Buddhist communities. Although the insurgents have committed egregious abuses, rights violations by Thai security forces have greatly exacerbated the situation.

Thai authorities regularly failed to conduct serious and credible inquiries into torture allegations and enforced disappearances. Military detention, which lacks effective safeguards against abuse, occurs regularly during government counterinsurgency operations in the southern border provinces. Successive Thai governments have failed to prosecute security personnel responsible for torture, unlawful killings, and other serious human rights violations against ethnic Malay Muslims. In many cases, Thai authorities provided financial compensation to the victims or their families in exchange for their agreement not to speak out or file criminal cases against officials. Despite these concerns, Prayuth’s policy statement does not address human rights problems in Thailand’s southern border provinces.

International Obligations

Prayuth’s policy statement only vaguely mentions the importance of Thailand meeting its international obligations. The junta did little to promote Thailand’s adherence to the core international human rights treaties. Although Thailand signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2012, it has yet to ratify the treaty and Thailand’s penal code does not recognize enforced disappearance. Thailand also does not have a law that criminalizes torture, as required by the Convention against Torture, which it ratified in 2007. The junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly suddenly suspended its consideration of the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance bill in February 2017, and the government has not set a new time frame for reconsidering the bill. Prayuth’s policy statement does not include this law among legislation to be urgently introduced by the government.

“Thailand’s foreign friends should not let the recent elections become an excuse for ignoring the deteriorating human rights situation in the country,” Adams said. “There should be no rush to return to business as usual without securing serious commitments and corresponding action from the new government to respect human rights.”





Torture, impunity

12 03 2019

While the puppet National Legislative Assembly continues to pass all manner of legislation, working faster than it ever has, seeking to complete the military junta’s political agenda before the NLA passes into history.

At the same time, it has resisted legislation that would limit the impunity of the military’s and state’s assassins and torturers.

In a recent editorial, the Bangkok Post noted:

Shortly after it was appointed by the new military regime in 2014, the National Legislative Assembly proposed a law that would criminalise torture and the government murders known as “enforced disappearances”.

But almost 5 years later, this legislation – the Torture and Enforced Disappearance Prevention and Suppression Bill – is likely to be dropped. The Post comments:

The refusal to ban abuses and murders that are illegal in most countries and by international law is a shameful blot. Both the regime and its appointed parliament share that shame.

The editorial observes that torture is standard practice in Thailand. It also notes that another horrendous practice – enforced disappearance – has also been widely used:

Thailand has never had a law against torture. It has never legislated against the detestable crime of disappearing — murdering and hiding the bodies — critics and activists who have not broken the law.

It might have added that the military regime appears to have escalated this practice internationally for “protecting” the monarchy.

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

This perhaps explains why the military regime’s “supporters in the NLA have already tried to strip accountability from the pending legislation,” extending impunity. The regime, the military and the police want to be able to torture and “disappear” with impunity. Many in the ruling class agree that their henchmen should have such “powers.”

Victims, their supporters and families are left powerless and that’s how the regime, the military and the police want.





Updated: Monarchies, a refugee and erasing human rights I

29 01 2019

Yesterday we posted on the rising reach and power of the monarch. We can’t help wondering if we shouldn’t have also mentioned the sad case of former Bahraini footballer and refugee Hakeem al-Araibi.

His case has been the subject of considerable agitation in Australia, which had granted him refugee status. Of course, it was also the dullards at the Australian Federal Police, under the thumb of extreme right-wing Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, who informed counterparts in Thailand of Hakeem’s approved trip to Thailand for his honeymoon, despite an invalid Interpol red notice.

It is now more than two months since Hakeem was detained in Bangkok.

A photo from The Guardian

There’s been considerable pressure on the military dictatorship to return Hakeem to Australia. Most recently:

Craig Foster, former captain of the Australian national football team and human rights activist, called for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to respect Australia’s sovereignty and allow Hakeem to return to Australia, since he has already been given asylum by the Australian government. Foster noted that, currently, there is an international campaign calling for Hakeem’s release, since this is not a lawsuit, but is a case of refoulement, which violates international law and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), to which Thailand is a state party. Foster also called for FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to seek possible measures to boycott the Football Association of Thailand and Bahrain and to ban them from taking part in international competitions, since Hakeem is a refugee who is being held in prison unlawfully and unnecessarily. And if the Bahraini government asks for Hakeem to be returned to Bahrain, Foster called for FIFA to take part as an independent observer in all meetings related to Hakeem’s case.

Recently, FIFA:

… issued a letter to Gen Prayut, Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai, and Thai Minister for Tourism and Sports Weerasak Kowsurat, expressing their concern about Hakeem’s detention and possible extradition. FIFA called on Thailand to allow Hakeem to return to Australia.

FIFA also called for a meeting with Thai authorities.

Meanwhile, Nantana Sivakua, Thailand’s Ambassador to Australia, responded to Australian media saying: “there is an Interpol red notice against Hakeem, and the case needs to be processed according to extradition laws.”

Thailand has previously stated that extradition formalities would continue through until about mid-February.

The claims by the Ambassador were contradicted by Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, observed that:

the Interpol red notice has been lifted since Hakeem is a recognised refugee. Robertson also said that if a country that respects international law knew of Hakeem’s refugee status, he would be sent back to Australia. Torture is normal in Bahraini prisons, and extraditing Hakeem under a charge from a Bahraini court would be a violation of the UN Convention against Torture.

As far as we know, there is no extradition treaty between Thailand and Bahrain. In international law a state has no “obligation to surrender an alleged criminal to a foreign state, because one principle of sovereignty is that every state has legal authority over the people within its borders.” Most civilized states do not surrender those accused of political crimes.

It seems that it is only in recent days that Bahrain has “submitted documents for the extradition of Hakeem…”. The Bahrain government issued a statement that “confirmed it has submitted the formal extradition request.”

Remarkably, then, it seems that Thailand has detained Hakeem for two months without a red notice and without a formal extradition request. Or, as the Bangkok Post reports it, there was a “legally invalid Interpol Red Notice.”

HRW’s Robertson made another comment that brings this post back to its top line. He “called into question the circumstances of Hakeem’s arrest. He suspects that this is a political game between Thailand and Bahrain…”.

In our first post on Hakeem’s case, PPT noted that the reasons for Thailand’s strange actions on the case are: first, Bahrain, like Thailand, is a monarchy, one just a little more absolute than the rest; second, both Bahrain and Thailand are holding rigged elections, and both have been chummy since the 2014 coup; and third, Thailand maintains a fiction of not really recognizing refugees and has a sorry recent history of allowing other repressive regimes to pick up refugees in and from Thailand.

It seems to us that the case can only be understood if one focuses on the strong links between the palaces in both countries.

Update: Thai PBS reports that the “International Olympic Committee has joined FIFA and other supporters of former Bahraini national footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi in demanding the Thai government to free him from detention and allow him to return to Australia.” It is added that “Thailand’s IOC member, Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul, had asked the Thai government ‘to find a solution based on basic human and humanitarian values’,” and that “IOC president Thomas Bach had personally discussed the situation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Mr Filippo Grandi.” For the purported love of monarchy, Thailand is risking more international disdain.





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.