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No figures on civilians being tried by military court



No figures on civilians being tried by military court | Thaiger


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

No figures on civilians being tried by military court
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: At the heart of the fierce debate over whether civilians should face a military tribunal under martial law is the mystery and disagreement on the exact number of civilians who are being tried in military courts since the coup last May.

Critics of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) have placed the figure at somewhere between 108 to 700, while NCPO spokesperson Col Winthai Suvari simply said the junta has no clue.

“The NCPO doesn’t know [the figures],” Col Winthai told The Nation on the phone yesterday, adding that perhaps the police or the Judge Advocate-General’s Department may have the figures.

The Nation was not able to get any figures from either of the two organizations mentioned by Col Winthai as of press time, though a source from the Judge Advocate-General’s Department said the figure should not be as high as 700. The source also said the numbers have to be collected first to come up with a tally.

Col Winthai, however, was quick to say it’s “impossible” for the number to be as high as 700, as insisted upon by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday.

“Human Rights Watch seems to be on the opposite side of the military,” Col Winthai said, adding the NCPO only arrests people and it is the police who forward some of the cases to military court under martial law, which is why the NCPO has no specific figures.

The NCPO spokesperson tried to count the number of civilians who are being tried in military court and managed to come up with only a few names.

HRW senior Thai researcher Sunai Phasuk said the figure of 700 facing military tribunal was reliable, but refused to publicly name the source.

“Sorry [we] can’t answer that. Have to protect our source,” he replied.

He also added that the number of civilians being tried by a military tribunal has been increasing “almost like [an] assembly line”, adding the military court system “is being stretched” as a result.

“This secrecy is a cause for alarm for human-rights abuses under martial law,” Mr Sunai stressed.

Yingcheep Atchanont, project manager at iLaw, a local NGO advocating legal reforms and citizens’ legal rights, said that at least 108 civilians were facing a military tribunal as of yesterday.

Mr Yingcheep said the real number is most definitely higher, as the figures his organization had compiled came from press reports, attending military court trials of known civilians and head counts provided by a group of human-rights lawyers. He said there were bound to be cases that did not get reported in the news or were not known to the organization’s network.

Asked if he thinks the NCPO ought to reveal the actual figure to the public, Mr Yincheep said absolutely.

“I think it’s very crucial to have such figures. The NCPO should reveal all the names of [civilians] facing military courts as well as the total figure of those who have been summoned to have their attitude adjusted.”

An enquiry with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was also fruitless, as commission member Niran Pitakwatchara said it has no specific totals.

Niran said the NHRC, which is against trying civilians in military courts under martial law, is concentrating on the qualitative side of the issue.

He added, however, “not even one [civilian] should face a military tribunal”.

— Phuket Gazette Editors


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