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Govt denies secret prisons, tightens security at US Embassy



Govt denies secret prisons, tightens security at US Embassy | Thaiger


– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Govt denies secret prisons, tightens security at US Embassy
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Government figures yesterday denied the existence of secret prisons or the torture of suspected foreign terrorists here while being sceptical of a security alert issued by the US Embassy in Thailand.

They rejected aspersions cast on Thailand after a recent report of the US Senate on the Central Intelligence Agency’s harsh interrogation program against terrorism suspects.

“A secret prison has not existed here and there are no reports of torture in Thailand. No Thai agencies have carried out such operations,” Prime Minister’s Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said. “There have never been cases of bringing in these sorts of prisoners. We have never conducted any illegal activities with the US.”

Suwaphan, a former director of the National Intelligence Agency, said he did not see Thailand being mentioned anywhere in the report. “The incidents mentioned in the report took place many years ago Anyway, I can assure [you] there are no secret prisons or torture in Thailand.”

He said the authorities would have to heighten security measures after reports that the US Embassy here had stepped up security and warned American citizens of possible terrorist attacks. “Thailand has no information about threats but we will not take risks.”

Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda affirmed that no secret prisons had existed in Thailand.

“The Army was unaware of any secret prison in Thailand when I served as the Army chief. At that time, I had given assurance that Thailand did not have any secret prisons,” Anupong said.

Armed Forces Supreme Commander General Worapong Sanganetra said he had no information regarding secret prisons or torture of suspected terrorists in Thailand.

He also said it was “normal” for the US authorities to warn their nationals. In response to the US warning of possible terrorist attacks in Thailand, the general said security personnel were carefully dealing with this matter.

The US Senate report mentions Thailand many times for its role in facilitating and sheltering terrorism suspects as well as helping US authorities capture some key suspects. Years ago, leaked reports indicated that the CIA had used facilities in Thailand for detention, harsh interrogation and torture, but the US Senate report, which was heavily censored in many parts, did not mention these clearly.

Paradorn Pattanathabutr, a former National Security Council chief who advises Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, said yesterday: “We have never allowed the US to use our space for detention or torture and there have never been any requests to do so.”

Panitan Wattanayagorn, an adviser to Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, said one policy followed by every Thai government was that no foreigners would be allowed to operate any detention facility in Thailand.

A political-science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, Panitan said Thai governments in the past often denied the existence of secret prisons or detention places operated by the CIA for suspected terrorists. However, he noted that there was some classified intelligence that could not be accessed by state agencies.

Panitan said the security agencies had concluded that Thailand was not a target for terrorist attacks. However, regular monitoring would continue.

Pol General Jakthip Chaichinda, the deputy national police chief in charge of security affairs, yesterday said he had instructed the Metropolitan Police to provide increased security at the US Embassy here after the warning of possible terrorist attacks on Americans.

Meanwhile, the tourism industry said the US warning would have no impact on tourist arrivals to Thailand.

Association of Thai Travel Agents president Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn said there had been no cancellations by tourists scheduled to visit Thailand in November and December.

“The government has reacted quickly over the warning in order to give confidence to tourists,” he said.

Thai Hotels Association president Surapong Techaruvichit said hotels in the capital and all major tourist destinations were on high alert after the US warning.

— Phuket Gazette Editors


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