HRW demands junta torture pledge

Self-appointed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha Prayut (left) in Bangkok in 2012. Source: Wikimedia

 

Human Rights Watch has demanded Bangkok’s junta pledges to make torture and enforced disappearance criminal offences.

Thailand announced this week that it would submit a bill to criminalise torture and enforced disappearances to the National Legislative Assembly, which is military appointed.

“The essence of this bill is that clear punishments will be imposed on those found responsible for any violations of detainees’ rights or their disappearance,” Bangkok spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd announced. “Those whose freedom is limited are entitled to contact their relatives, lawyers or trusted people to inform them where and how they are being detained.”

The ruling generals also said they would ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The government, however, provided no time frame for taking action on these pledges.

“Officials who committed torture and enforced disappearances in Thailand have frequently avoided the severe punishment they deserve because the country’s laws don’t recognise these heinous crimes,” said Brad Adams, director of HRW Asia. “The government needs to take swift and concrete action to make torture and enforced disappearance criminal offences and effectively implement the law.”

The law should allow no exemptions for political or security reasons, HRW added. Thailand’s draft law could jail government officials who commit torture or forced disappearance for up to 20 years, 30 years if serious injury is caused and life imprisonment for causing a death.

A commander would face half of the penalty for intentionally ignoring crimes being committed by subordinates, HRW added.

The NGO has condemned the junta’s repeated use of secret military detention against political activists, especially since the May 2014 coup.

Since 1980, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has recorded 82 enforced disappearances in Thailand and no successful resolutions. HRW, however, puts the number far higher because victims’ relatives and witnesses remain silent for fear of reprisal and because the government lacks an efficient witness protection system.

Alleged methods of torture include beatings, electric shocks and near suffocation. The junta dismisses allegations of torture, saying the claims come from groups intent on damaging Thailand’s reputation.

“Concerned states should step up now to insist the Thai government makes good on its pledges to combat torture and enforced disappearance,” Adams said. “These deeply rooted problems, which are glaring proof of lawlessness and disrespect for basic rights, will require a strong and sustained effort to eradicate.”