THAILAND: Concern for detainees of the military junta
Since the May 22, 2014 coup, the ruling military junta of the National Peace and Order Maintenance Council (NPOMC) has begun a process of mass arrests of those deemed to oppose them. This has included the arrest of peaceful demonstrators in various cities, the arrest of citizens who have responded to ongoing public summons to report to the military, and the arrest of citizens following unannounced raids on their homes. Under the terms of martial law in Thailand, citizens can be subject to up to seven days of detention without the authorities having to provide evidence of wrongdoing or bring formal charges. Detainees can be held at irregular places of detention, including permanent or temporary military bases or other sites designated as places of detention.
In NPOMC Order No. 5/2014, announced at 10 am on May 24, 2014, 35 persons were ordered via public broadcast to report to the Army Club on Thewet Road by 4 pm, or face a maximum punishment of 2 years in prison and/or a 40,000 baht fine. The military junta has now confirmed that 3 persons who were summoned to report themselves as part of this order have now been sent to a miltary camp in Rachaburi province. The three persons are Thanapol Eawsakul, Surapot Thaweesak, and Sudsanguan Suthisorn. Thanapol Eawsakul, who was first arrested when he was peacefully demonstrating on May 23, 2014, is the editor of Same Sky magazine (AHRC-STM-099-2014). Surapot Thaweesak is a lecturer in philosophy at Ratchaphat Suan Dusit University in Hua Hin. Sudsanguan Suthisorn is an associate professor of criminology at Thammasat University.
On May 25, 2014, Colonel Winthai Suwaree, the spokesperson for the NPOMC said at a press conference that the three persons would not be detained for longer than 7 days. The junta has maintained that they will not reveal the total number of people who have been requested to report, detained, and/or released, nor the places of detention. When asked if detainees had the right to meet with a lawyer, he commented that, “This is a matter in which understanding must be adjusted. Those who have come to report themselves do not need a lawyer because they are not offenders [of the law]” (AHRC translation). If those who are detained are not in need of a lawyer because they have not been judged guilty of violating the law, then why are they being detained? The contradiction animating Colonel Winthai’s own words confirms that the detention of Thanapol Eawsakul, Surapot Thaweesak, and Sudsanguan Suthisorn and others currently being held is arbitrary.
While the junta has made reassurances that those who report themselves will not be mistreated, within the context of martial law and rule by the junta, this reassurance carries no weight. Detention in irregular places means that the possibility for rights violations, including torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial execution is greatly increased. Any assurances of safety are further called into question by Colonel Winthai Suntharee’s refusal to reveal the locations of places of detention or to provide more specific information about the precise numbers and identities of those who are detained.
The order for citizens to report themselves represents a violation of the Government of Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a State Party, notably article 9, which provides specifically that, “1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law. 2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him. 3. Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release...”
The Asian Human Rights Commission wishes to express grave concern about the rapid decline of human rights protections that the coup by the National Peace and Order Maintenance Council has engendered in Thailand. The detention of Thanapol Eawsakul, Surapot Thaweesak, and Sudsanguan Suthisorn at an army base in Ratchaburi province are clear cases of arbitrary detention. The AHRC is concerned that there may be many more persons being detained whose identities and places of detention are not known. The AHRC calls on the National Peace and Order Maintenance Council to immediately release all citizens being arbitrarily detained without charge and to cease creating public terror through issuing summons and carrying out indiscriminate raids.