The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia [official website] on Tuesday urged [press release] Thailand to immediately close a military detention center in Bangkok where two high-profile inmates have died in the last month. The office also called for the end of military detention facilities being used to hold civilian prisoners, a cry echoed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) [advocacy websites] in a joint statement [text] on Tuesday. The circumstances of the deaths of the two prisoners, who were arrested [AP report] on charges of insulting the monarchy through claims to be representing the royal palace for financial gain, have been called controversial. According to Thai authorities, Pol. Maj. Prakom Warunprapha hung himself in his cell, while the death of Suriyan Sucharitpolwong was attributed to blood poisoning. The UN Human Rights Office has asked that a prompt and impartial inquiry be held into the two deaths. This call for an investigation was also made in the statement of the ICJ and HRW, which also recommended the immediate transfer of all non-military detainees in military facilities to an officially recognized civilian place of detention.
The military took control of the Thai government after a coup in May 2014, overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Martial law was instituted on May 20, 2014, two days before the coup [JURIST report] that ousted the former Thai government and installed General Prayuth Chan-ocha [BBC profile] as the country’s new prime minister. In October Thailand’s military government appointed [JURIST report] a committee to write a new constitution after a previous draft was rejected the month before. In May of this year Thailand’s military government announced [JURIST report] it would hold a referendum on a new constitution, delaying the general elections scheduled for mid-2016.