Military sues human rights activist

The military is suing a human rights activist over torture claims, the second time in five months it has used defamation laws against civilians.

The military is suing a human rights activist over torture claims, the second time in five months it has used defamation laws against civilians.

The complaint arises from an open letter that Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, the director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), wrote on May 2 to the commander of Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) in Region 4, responsible for the southern border provinces.

In the letter, she requested an investigation into allegations that military personnel had severely beaten Adil Samae while arresting him on April 26. The information was provided by Mr Adil’s mother to a staff member at CrCF, which monitors and documents cases of torture and ill-treatment in Thailand.

The officers alleged a SIM card owned by Mr Adil, 21, was used to trigger an explosion in Yala province on April 6-7, although no formal charges were made against him.

Ms Pornpen said if the allegations of torture were true, it would be a violation of Thai law and the UN Convention against Torture, to which Thailand is a party. On May 20, the military filed an informal complaint against the CrCF with the police, for damaging the reputation of the Yala Rangers Unit 41 over Mr Adil’s alleged torture. Ms Pornpen will report to the Yala police station on Sept 14, having receiving a warrant earlier this month.

On May 8, Isoc issued a press statement saying the search adhered to international human rights standards and that the medical certificate from Yala and Hat Yai hospitals, including an X-ray, did not show any injuries to Mr Ardil’s chest.

“It was strange that the army chose to react this way,” said Ms Pornpen, who has been working in the South for eight years. “I believe the decision by the army in responding in this manner is probably because they want to prevent me from campaigning against certain issues.”

Since the May 22 coup, Ms Pornpen has spoken out on human rights issues on behalf of detained red shirts including Sombat Boonngamanong, Kritsuda Khunasen and Yongyuth Boondee.
International NGOs called for the immediate withdrawal of the military’s complaint.

“The criminal complaint undermines the right of the victim of the alleged ill treatment to a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into his case, without intimidation, as guaranteed under international law, including human rights treaties to which Thailand is a party,” said a joint statement of the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
The defamation case was launched after Ms Pornpen attended the UN Committee against Torture session in Geneva in April. The committee was examining an official Thai report on responses to torture allegations in the Kingdom.

Ms Pornpen submitted her own 44-page report describing 92 torture cases to the committee.

Ms Pornpen alleged it was not the first time the military had threatened Mr Adil.

In December last year, two Phuketwan website journalists were charged with criminal and computer crimes offences stemming from an article which allegedly defamed the Royal Thai Navy by claiming it was involved in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants in southern Thailand.