Thailand rights defenders charged over torture report News
Thailand rights defenders charged over torture report

Thai military officials on Tuesday charged three human rights defenders with criminal defamation and violations of the Computer Crimes Act because of a report they published detailing acts of torture in Thailand. The defenders, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Anchana Heemmina and Somchai Homlaor, face up to five years [AFP report] in jail time if convicted. The report, Torture and ill treatment in The Deep South Documented in 2014-2015, details 54 incidents of torture and human rights abuses in South Thailand, and the activists hoped that it would cast a light on an issue so often glossed over due to marginalization and would encourage victims [Al Jazeera report] to share their experiences. Several rights groups have come out against the arrests in a joint report [text, PDF], calling them a “reprisal against civil society groups seeking to bring to the authorities’ attention the continued abuse of power and ill-treatment of detainees in Thailand.” The report urged the government to drop all charges against the rights defenders and ensure that retaliation is not allowed, as well as general human rights recommendations going forward.

Human rights groups worldwide have expressed growing concern over violations in Thailand since the military junta came to power in May 2014. In March Human Rights Watch urged [JURIST report] Thailand to stop harassing and charging human right lawyers for defending victims of the government’s abuses. Also in March the Pheu Thai Party filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights over the detention of one of its key figures, Watana Muangsook, accusing the government of serious human rights violations. In January UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on the Thai government to fully investigate [JURIST report] the whereabouts of at least 82 people listed as disappeared and criminalize forced disappearance through legislation. That same month, Thailand unveiled a new draft constitution [JURIST report], which human rights groups stated was aimed at increasing the power of the military under the guise of clauses intended to promote national security permitting them to commit human rights abuses without fear of punishment in violation of international treaties.