Thai version is attached;
For immediate release on 5 April 2016
The death of a military private as a result of a physical assault
at the Payak Camp, Bannang Sata district, Yala:
A lack of legal and practical safeguards to prevent the torture resulting in death of a military officer
It was widely reported that Pvt Songtham Mudmad, 23 years, and Pvt Chatpisut Chumphan, 23 years, of the 1st Battalion of the 152nd Infantry Regiment, the Payak Camp, Bannang Sata district, Yala, were punished for their alleged breaches of discipline between 1-2 April 2016. Later, Pvt Songtham sustained severe injuries and was brought for treatment at the Yala Regional Hospital before his death was announced on 4 April 2016 – while the injured Pvt Chatpisut Chumphan continues to receive treatment at the Ingkhayuthaboriharn Military Camp.
The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) has the following observations to make:
- According to the Soldier Discipline Act B.E. 2476, a military official who violates military regulations can be sanctioned proportionate to the severity of the breach at five levels including: (1) probation for a person who has committed an offence and is deemed to be sanctioned, but given the reason for clemency, the punishment shall be suspended albeit announced to public; (2) punitive action including cleaning the toilet, plumbing, etc. additional to the existing duties the person is obliged to carry out or compelled to stay on guard additional the existing duties; (3) detention including being deprived of liberty in a place or an area as designated confinement (4) detention whether it be a solitary confinement or group confinement as ordered; and (5) imprisonment including being subject to the custody of a military prison. Apart from the aforementioned sanctions, no other punitive actions can be invented. That the punishment in this case has resulted aggravated injuries of the two military privates, and one of whom has died, indicates that the punitive action sanctioned by the superior official against the two military privates is a blatant deviation from what is clearly provided for by law.
- Any punitive action inconsistent with the methods provided for by law, apart from being a breach of a military regulation, is also a violation of international human rights law to which Thailand is a state party. According to the review of complaints received from the military official themselves and the families of the military officials who had been injured by the “punishment”, it was found there is a lack of legal safeguards and procedures to prevent the sanctions of a military official to avoid injuries and deaths. It is particularly important that Thailand acts in compliance with the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) by criminalizing the act of torture. Such a legal provision shall help to bring to justice to the perpetrator, encourage the adoption of preventive measures and the effective and impartial investigation of the alleged torture, particularly an act of torture which takes place in a military barracks including the “punishment” of the military privates in this case, or in any detention facility and prison. It will also ensure remedies for the injured parties and minimize impact toward the families of the victims.
- Death in custody is hard to investigate, including any unnatural death or death as a result of physical assault or torture by any fatal means. Its investigation requires the collaboration of various agencies, particularly with a forensic doctor who can conduct an autopsy to examine the real cause of death.
- The official in charge of the investigation of the death in custody must be independent, professional, highly experienced and competent since it may involve government officials who might be influential. Therefore, the police officials involved with the investigation of the death must make take all reasonable steps to investigate the crime scene to collect as much information as possible to establish the facts and to ensure fairness to all parties. If a police official who investigates the crime scene which is part of a government unit and fails to secure cooperation from the authority in charge of the place, or if the official fails to demonstrate impartiality, unreality and professionalism, it will lead to a failure to establish the truth and accurate information. The case will remain unresolved leading to doubts in the mind of the public and their relatives and causing a lack of trust in Thailand’s justice process.
- A military barracks, detention facility or prison falls under the supervision and charge of superior officials who have the mandate to set out procedures and to monitor to prevent acts of torture. Disciplinary actions which have resulted in death have taken place several times including the death of Pvt Wichian Phuaksom on 5 June 2011. The incident took place at Pileng Military Barrack, Narathiwat. And the case of Corporal Kittikorn Suthiraphan, who died while being held in custody at the prison of the 25th Military Circle, Surin on 21 February 2016. Previous investigations in such cases and other similar cases have not led to any disciplinary action and criminal action against the superior officials. It has led to doubts and concern among the relatives and in public.
Regarding the incidents at the Payak Camp, Bannang Sata district, Yala, CrCF has the following recommendations and demands:
- Superior officials must first immediately suspend from office the officials who may have been involved with the aggravated injury and death of the two military privates and set up an independent committee with the expertise and mandate to investigate the incidents promptly and transparently. Any established perpetrators must face justice, including disciplinary action and criminal prosecution. Remedies must be provided appropriately to the families of the two victims.
- The Thai government, through the Ministry of Justice, is urged to accelerate the promulgation of the Act on the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance in compliance with the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, consistent with international standards. An act of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment must be criminalized. Effective measures must be adopted to effectively prevent torture and to ensure the provision of remedies to the physically and mentally affected persons per the commitment which has been given to international community during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
- The government must allow an independent committee to carry out the inspection of the detention facilities in compliance with the obligations to which Thailand is a state party. It was recommended to the Thai government by the Committee Against Torture in June 2014, regarding the inspection and visit to a prison, in paragraph 24, that all government agencies must have access to carry out an inspection of a detention facility, along with NGOs and international organizations when a prior request is made. It was noted by the Committee that the Thai delegation had pledged to sign the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in the near future. Nevertheless, the Committee’s request to visit a prison in Thailand is still denied. The Committee is concerned whether all detention facilities are effective, and independent and are ready for inspection or not.
- The government must act according to the recommendations received from the UN Committee Against Torture including: (a) ensuring that effective inspection have been made at all detention facilities including regular visits and unannounced visits subject to national and international inspections carried out by independent organizations including inspection by non-governmental organizations working for the prevention of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, (b) publish the results of the inspections and follow up on the inspections, (c) compile all information concerning the venue, time and duration of the inspections including the unannounced visit to the place of deprivation of liberty and other findings and the follow up on the inspections, (d) ratify the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and set up the National Prevention Mechanism.
For more information, please contact
Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, CrCF’s Director, phone 086-7093000
Mr. Preeda Nakphew, CrCF’s Attorney, phone 089-6222474 (the case of Pvt Wichian)
Ms. Nutthasiri Bergman, attorney, phone 085-1208077 (the case of Pvt Kittikorn)