Govt rejects Amnesty allegations on torture


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Govt rejects Amnesty allegations on torture
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Foreign Ministry will defend the government against allegations that suspects behind grenade attacks were tortured while in military custody. It will also explain while the country remains under martial law, PM’s Office deputy spokesperson Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.

Gen Sansern said the Foreign Ministry would disseminate a message to foreign correspondents and various foreign organizations to create a better understanding of the government’s actions.

The move came after Amnesty International (AI) launched a global action urging its international members outside Thailand to voice concern over allegations of torture by the Thai Army and police.

The London-based organization asked members to send letters to chiefs of both the Army and the police in order to get civilian agencies independently investigate the torture allegations and make their findings public. It also asked members to pressure the government of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to allow grenade-attack suspects to have access to their family, lawyers, and independent physicians, as well as have their cases tried in civilian courts.

Gen Sansern said AI and other organizations, including the United Nations, could pursue their activities in relation to Thailand. But he said they should treat the government with respect, particularly when it comes to information provided by the government in defence of itself.

He said the government was trying to explain to the world about the Thai justice system and noted that special laws, such as martial law, were applied only when necessary and that they did not make Thais feel uncomfortable.

Those who were uncomfortable with martial law were people who harbored “violent ideas”, he said, adding that the government had to rely on martial law in order to help arrest more than 10 grenade-attack suspects.

Gen Sansern defended the use of military courts against some civilians, saying the standards of military courts were no different from other courts. Only major security-related charges against civilians and lese majeste offences were handled by military courts.

He asked international organizations to have confidence in the Thai judicial system as the government and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) were prepared to be scrutinized.

In a related development, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, lashed out at Amnesty International and those accusing the military of torturing bomb suspects, by asking: “Whom have I tortured?”

Gen Prawit said martial law did not allow torture. The deputy premier said the government was looking into the issue of martial law, which he acknowledged had reduced confidence in the government in the eyes of some foreign states. But he stressed the law was applied for two key tasks: search and arrest without having to wait for a court warrant.

Regarding efforts to extradite people accused of violating the lese majeste law, Gen Prawit acknowledged that sometimes it was not possible because there were countries that do not recognise the law, so it would be impossible to extradite some people. Individuals charged with terrorism could be extradited, however.

NCPO spokesperson Col Winthai Suvari also denied yesterday any suspects had been tortured.

“I insist that there’s no reason or necessity for officers to torture or assault those in [military] custody under martial law. Officers chiefly rely on requesting cooperation and creating understanding among those detained by the military in solving the country’s woes. I insist we don’t treat those detained [under martial law] like suspects, which falls under the next step under the police.

In a related development, Deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Krea-ngam said he met yesterday with officers from the Judge Advocate-General’s Department to explore the possibility of transferring civilians from military courts to ordinary courts.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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