POLICE IN THAILAND
The Royal Thai Police have approximately 213,000 officers organized in 10 geographic regions. These forces include provincial police, marine police, police aviation, and border patrol police. The national police are under the command of the police commissioner general, who reports directly to the prime minister—a member of the military junta—and the 20-member Police Commission. The police commissioner general is appointed by the prime minister, subject to cabinet and royal approval. The Border Patrol Police have special authority and responsibility in border areas to combat insurgent and separatist movements. Thailand also has a Central Police Academy and provincial police training schools. [Source: Library of Congress, 2007]
The National Police Office has more than 100,000 employees. In the mid-2000s there was some discussion of decentralizing the National Police Office—breaking it up into regional offices with jurisdiction over their own affairs to curtail the powers of the police chief.
In the 1990s, the power of issuing search and arrest warrants and was taken out of the hands of police and put in the hands of the judiciary. This and other moves have been taken to reduce abuses by police.
Under Thaksin the government gave itself unprecedented emergency powers— never previously seen in Thai law—issued by decree by Thaksin, mainly to tackle the violence in the Muslim South. Under the “Emergency Power Law” of July 2005, which many said was harsher than martial law imposed by the military, civil rights were suspended and institutions designed to hear resident’s complaints were eliminated. The government was given the power to tap phones, monitor e-mails, confiscate property of suspects, put people under house arrest, order curfews, censor the press, halt the distributions of newspapers and magazines, grant immunity to security officials, and hold suspects for up to 30 days without charges. After Thaksin announced the Executive Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations (Emergency Power Law) King Bhumibol told him not to abuse his power.
Under current Thai law a suspect can be held for 30 days without being charged, but police must seek request for detention every seven days.
Problems with the Police in Thailand
Thai police have a fearsome reputation. They are notorious for taking the law into their own hands and meting out justice as they see fit and have been accused by human rights groups of engaging in extrajudicial killings.
Police have been accused of killing suspects in cold blood after they surrendered or been captured. Compared to other countries, large numbers of people are killed in police shootings and die while in police custody. For a long time only police were authorized to conduct autopsies and consequently the case of death was how they saw it and no one could question .
Heavily-armed militias and vigilante groups still have a presence in Thailand. Some were set up in the Vietnam War era to fight Communist insurgents and were never disbanded. Businessmen hire them to settle disputes and intimidate rivals. Politicians hire them during elections. The police and the government occasionally call on them to do their dirty work for them in campaigns against drug dealers and car smugglers.
Corruption and the Police in Thailand
Corruption is institutionalized in the police force in the form of extra-budgetary payments to police officer's welfare funds, holiday banquets, office renovations, bribe-taking, and extortion. Police are poorly paid. A patronage system, in which beat police, funnel money to their superiors is institutionalized.
According to a Bangkok Post editorial: The National Police Office’s fundamental problems are “widespread nepotism, corruption, lax law enforcement and disrespect for the rule of law. Nepotsim is particularly deeply entrenched. It is a known fact that capability, resourcefulness and seniority—the standard yardsicks for promotion in a government bureaucracy—are not enough to be promoted without the right connections or enough money to kick up to their superiors. There is a great deal of truth to the rumor that the post of chief inspector at a “good” police station costs about 500,000 baht (about $15,000).
Another root cause of corruption is relatively unknown to the public is the unspoken tradition that police officers are not supposed to be seen riding city buses. It has become accepted practice that once they enlist in the force they must acquire a car, despite their humble pay.
Police, Bangkok’s Sex King, Prostitution and Corruption
Ironically, although prostitution is illegal, many sex businesses have government or police officials among their owners. In other cases, these officials are paid by the establishment owners to avoid enforcing the law. In the 1990s it was reported that one police commander had stakes in two massage parlors and cabinet ministers receiving cases of fine wine and free services with the best girls.
In the 1990s it was reported that Thailand's thousands of brothels, massage parlors and hostess bars stayed open by bribing local police between $120 and $600 a month. One study at that time showed that Bangkok's 1,000 or so entertainment houses paid police $600,000 a month. The police allegedly used the money to buy imported cars and nice suburban homes. In 1994, one police colonel was found to have $920,000 in his bank account.
Corrupt policemen and politicians often get much of their money from sex industry operators. In the 1990s, a superintendent received $2,000 a month from sex industry operators; a deputy superintendent in crime suppression received $1,250 a month; a deputy superintendent in investigation got $500; a deputy superintendent in the traffic division, $250; an inspector, $85; a deputy inspector, $50.
In the early 2000s, Chuwit Kamolvisit was known as Thailand’s sex king. He owned six enormous, very profitable massage parlors—Victoria’s Secret, Honolulu, Hi-Class, Emmanuelle, Copabacana and Sea of Love. A rough and flamboyant former policeman, he reportedly paid out $300,000 a month in bribes and one had the establishment of a rival bulldozed to the ground.
When police crackdowned on his establishments Chuwit Kamolvisit he responded by revealing that he had spent $2.5 million over 10 years bribing the same people who were involved in his arrest. He said he felt betrayed and double crossed. He didn’t name any names but he threatened to do so In a press conference Chuwit said, “I’m a mad dog now and I’ll bite anyone...I used to buy whole trays of Rolex watches for police officers. I used to carry cash in black plastic bags for them. But they are still harassing me.” He said he also gave out free car repairs, home fix ups, boxing tickets, golf club memberships, free bowling and free services at his massage parlors.
Thai Police and the Saudi Gem Scandal
One of the worst scandals in Thai history involved the theft of $20 million worth of jewels by a Thai servant from a palace owned by the Saudi Arabian royal family. Some of the jewels were family treasures hundreds of years old. [Source: William Branigin, the Washington Post, August 30, 1994]
The 200 pound cache of jewelry was stolen in 1989 from the home of Prince Faisal bin Fahd, the son of King Fahd, while the prince and his wife were on a three-month vacation. The Thai servant, Kriangkrai Techamong, was arrested in Thailand and the jewelry was recovered by Thai police in Bangkok, but then mysteriously taken to a Bangkok hotel for two days before being transferred to the police station.
When the jewels were returned to Saudi Arbai, about 80 percent of the items were still missing and most of the rest were fakes. The most valuable pieces were believed to have been taken by high-ranking police officers after the jewels were recovered and before they were taken to Saudi Arabia. For the crime, Kriangkrai was sentenced to five years in prison and released after two years a seven months for good behavior.
In 1994, many of the jewels were turned in anonymously under a no-questions-asked agreement. Among the items still missing at that time were a "priceless" 50-carat blue diamond, a necklace of very rare green diamonds, "rubies the size of chicken-eggs," and a $2 million bracelet with a huge blue sapphire.
The Saudi's have little doubt that high-ranking Thai police officials were involved in the theft. The stolen blue sapphire and some stolen pearls, according to one Saudi investigator, were made into a necklace worn by the wife of a senior police general at a party in 1992. The largest cache of stolen jewelry was turned in the day after criminal charges were dropped against a senior police general and the former national police chiefs.
Tips on Bribing Bangkok Traffic Cops
In 2011, Bangkok-resident Hugh Paxton wrote on his blog: “The only honest traffic cop in Bangkok is made of plastic. Or so the saying goes”—a reference to fake, life sized police placed at busy intersections to deter would-be traffic offenders. “But these plasti-cops do at least have one advantage over their flesh and blood colleagues. They may be extremely shiny and may have spray paint on their faces – but they don’t break the law. [Source: Hugh Paxton, hughpaxton.wordpress.com==]
“Fairly recently, Rodel, a good friend of mine, gave me a lift and made two serious mistakes. The first was failing to see an invisible sign prohibiting U-turns....Rodel’s second blunder was taking his car out just before lunch; a time when the police, having spent their previous day’s earnings on bar girls, now have their minds on noodle money.Their wives have refused to cook them breakfast and (if they’ve been smoking the ‘sticky stuff’) they’ve got the munchies. ==
We were pulled over very promptly by a tiny, wasp-waisted cop wearing a very large motorbike helmet, reflective shades and a face mask...Rodel knew the ‘one minute rent-a-cop’ routine; there was even some falsely good humoured haggling, and after the fun was over the police ‘road block’ mounted his bike and shot off at a speed clearly exceeding legal limits. A good bust! He now had a 100 Baht noodle voucher in his wallet. Hope he got food poisoning! Rodel took the incident in his stride. ==
In regards to avoid or handle such situations Paxton advised: “1) Take a taxi rather than self drive in Bangkok. The drivers know the police situation. 2) If you are pulled over don’t start scrabbling in your pockets and thrusting coins at the officer. Coins are insulting. They also fall all over the place and somebody’s got to pick them up making every passing car slow to watch the spectacle. This is a paper money transaction. 3) He won’t ask you for a bribe because that would be illegal. So don’t verbally suggest it. Suggesting it could get you into subverting the cause of justice territory. In the extremely unlikely event that he is honest he might arrest you. ==
4) Call the puss bag ‘sir’ and look daunted, apologetic and humble. 5) Try and guage the officer’s mood. Does he look very hungry? Is he waving his driving tickets in a part of the road that might get him killed by speeding drivers or scooter riders skimming past mere inches from his spine? If so do not immediately hand over anything. With a bit of luck a car driven by the spaced out daughter of a Red Shirt politician will knock him out of his boots and send him 300 meters away from you. 6) Does he want another 100 Baht? If he does, and you can’t afford it, show him an empty wallet, grovel a bit. 7) The bribe hand over. It needs to be disguised. You curl your 100 baht note into a fist, he gives you his fist and cunningly extricates the note. Passersby are assumed to be watching a friendly cop/public exchange of knuckle touching. ==
Executive Summary: Use your instincts. But follow my instructions. Bear in mind that if one of these germs books you for your traffic offence his move will also involve one shit load of paperwork for your arresting officer. And if it’s rush hour time it will take him hours to get anything done. And his fellow traffic cops will regard him as a dangerous subversive. ==
Thailand’s Internal Security Operation Command
The Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC) is a legacy of the Cold War. It used to be synonymous with human-rights violations and the inhumane treatment of communist suspects and was a much feared organization in the 1970s and early 1980s. It was created to fight and contain communist insurgencies in Thailand . In the past two decades, ISOC officials and networks have been mobilised to counter drug trafficking and, lately, to make forays into the South.
The ISOC is now under the control of the prime minister rather than the Army chief as was the case before. Any declarations of emergency and subsequent operations have to be approved by the Cabinet within a specific time frame. Once an operation has been completed, the prime minister must then report the outcome to the National Legislative Assembly.
Thailand’s Internal Security Act
Thailand’s Internal Security Act, created in 2007 and 2008 during a period of intense anti-government protests, allows authorities to hold suspects without charge for up to seven days. It also allows for curfews and restrictions on freedom of movement in situations deemed harmful to national secuity.
The Internal Security Act has been used during major protests to limit the movement of the protesters, allow the army to set up checkpoints and declare curfews. The security act allows authorities to close roads and ban use of electronic devices in designated areas.
The Internal Security Act is a watered-down version of a law that in its original form would have given a military body under the control of the prime minister sweeping powers to suspend basic rights and override normal government procedures anywhere in the country at any time. It could also have been used to protect officials from prosecution for abuses. That law was sharply criticized by human righst groups.
The Internal Security Bill approved by the Thai parliament in December 2007 contains preventive measures to avert security threats and methods of precrisis management. A number of articles outline how public liberties and rights can be restricted.
Pornthip Rojanasunand, Thai CSI
Dr. Pornthip Rojanasunand is arguably the most well-known crime-solving official in Thailand. Known as Dr. Death, she is a pathologist who wears outlandish outfits and platform shoes and has bright red hair, sports a punk-style hair-cut and has blood-red lipstick. She appears regularly on television and has written a number of best-selling books with chapters like “My First Corpse,” “Death By Tapeworm” and “I’m Not Scared of Ghosts, I’m Just Scared of the Smell.”
But Dr. Pornthip is more than just an outlandish figure. She has almost single-handedly brought modern CSI-style forensic pathology to Thailand. Largely self-taught from books, she introduced DNA testing and other technologies to Thai police work and investigations. The police hate her because she often revels the truth about crimes rather than the police’s version of events. She revealed, for example, that one man, who police said had been gunned down by gangsters, was in fact killed with bullets from a policeman’s gun. The investigation of a Welsh woman found strangled in August 2000 was reopened with new DNA evidence.
In 2009 Saksith Saiyasombut of Asia News Network wrote: “At the age of 26 she worked at a hospital in Northern Thailand, when she decided to change her field of expertise and begun studying forensic anthropology and pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington DC.... Dr Pornthip came into the public spotlight 10 years ago, when one of her medical students was murdered by her boyfriend. Her head was severed, her body cut into 168 pieces and flushed down the toilet. The police noted a bloodstain in the boyfriend‘s car, but failed to act upon it. A month later the murderer confessed to the police he killed her in his apartment. Dr Pornthip found a bloodstain in the bathroom, which DNA matched with the victim‘s and soon after found her remains in the toilet. “Since then, the police started to hate me. The Thai people saw that they needed to trust me and the forensic evidence, not the police,” Dr. Pornthip remembers. [Source: Saksith Saiyasombut, ANN, September 30, 2009^]
“But also since then the public made a celebrity out of her. She soon became famous nation wide as “Dr Death” and whenever there is a murder case, chances are that Dr Pornthip is investigating. And even if she is not involved, like when the American actor David Carradine was found dead in his Bangkok hotel room, she was able to solve the case quicker than her colleagues. “I was not part of the investigation. Typically for Thai media, they asked for my expert opinion about this case. From what I saw as an outsider, it didn‘t look like murder or suicide. So I said it could be an accident.” Dr Pornthip concluded that the actor strangled himself while performing auto-erotic asphyxiation, in order to enhance sexual satisfaction. ^
“Dr Pornthip is used to corpses, having performed over 10,000 autopsies over the years. But her biggest challenge probably was the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, which hit the west coast of Thailand and claimed over 5,000 lives. She and her team headed immediately to Phang Na, the province with the most casualties. “On the first day I had to face 30 bodies at a temple. There was only time for a brief identification,” she remembers, “The next day the governor of the region asked me to go to another place, where six or seven hundred bodies were brought to a temple.” ^
Currently, Dr Pornthip works in the deep south of the kingdom, where insurgent violence has killed over 3,000 people over the last five years. Armed assaults and roadside bomb attacks are almost a daily occurrence. She and her team are trying now to find out who are behind the killings. During the investigations, they are accompanied by the army for their own protection. Forensic pathology has come a long way in Thailand where evidence collection was under the supervision by the police. “Nobody wanted to work as a crime scene investigator and no one understood the value of forensic evidence,” Dr Pornthip explains. Today, she is now the director of Central Institute of Forensic Science under the Ministry of Justice. In 2003, she was given the the honorary title of Khunying, the Thai equivalent to Dame. One more thing that sets her apart is her trademark punk rock look. She sports spiky red hair, multiple bracelets dangling around her arms and fashionable boots. “It‘s my artistic side. Before I became a doctor, I wanted to be an interior designer and the first magazine I subscribed to was the fashion magazine Glamour. The second one was National Geographic. You see, these are two opposite things in my life.”^
Death Penalty in Thailand
Thailand has the death penalty. Sentences used to carried out with machine guns but now are performed with lethal injection. Executions have been broadcast on television. Crimes punishable by death include crimes against the king or the state, arson or rape where victims are killed or badly injured , manslaughter, murdering one’s parents, and drug trafficking. The last execution was on August 25, 2009.
As of 2013 there were 687 prisoners condemned to death, 618 men, mostly detained in Bang Kwang prison, and 69 women. According to research by Sutawan Chanprasert, a Master student at Chulalongkorn University, posted on the blog deathpenaltythailand: “While prisoners are sentenced to death at a rate higher than one per week, very few are actually executed. Six have been executed in the last ten years. Eventually the large majority of prisoners benefit from a royal commutation of sentence to life imprisonment, and subsequent reductions in sentence which result in eventual release. Prisoners remain under sentence of death for up to ten years until all legal procedures are completed. [Source: deathpenaltythailand.blogspot.
In 1999, there nine people, including five foreigners, on death row in Thailand, all of then for heroin trafficking. The foreigners were two Israelis, and one person each from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Nigeria. In 1999, a 60-year-old man from Myanmar caught trying to smuggle 11.2 kilograms of heroin was executed. He was caught in 1993 and was shot to death with machine guns at Bangkok’s Bang Khwang maximum security prison. He was the second Myanmar national to be executed in less than two months.
Prisoners in Thailand
There are 143 prisons in Thailand. About 70 percent of the inmates are in prison on drug-related charges. There are special prisons for women that have nurseries for their children. The daily food budget per inmate is $1.40. [Source: Thaiprisonlife.com
In February 2013 the were 257,323 prisoners in Thailand (219,466 men & 37,857 women), about 6,000 more than the pervious month. In 1998, Thailand's 129 prisons held 164,000 inmates, 44,000 more than the previous year. Inmate numbers over the years: 1997 – 125,870 prisoners; 1998 – 164,323 prisoners; 1999 – 199,542 prisoners; 2000 – 217,393 prisoners; 2001 – 244,240 prisoners; 2002 – 245,801 prisoners; 2003 – 210,234 prisoners; 2004 – 166,418; prisoners; 2005 – 161,879 prisoners; 2006 – 151,586 prisoners.
Some Thai prisoners are put to work raising crops within prison compounds as part of an early release program. Every day spent tilling the soil is reduced from their sentence. Juvenile offenders are sometimes sent to boot camps, where their regimen of push ups, obstacle course runs and drills are so rigorous many end up fainting. Waist-deep water in floods in July 1999, forced the evacuation of Chantaburi prison.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the longest prison sentence (141,078) years was given in 1989 by a Bangkok criminal court to Chamiy Thipyaso, a Thai woman accused of stealing millions from people through a deposit-taking scheme.
More than 7,000 men serving sentences of 25 years or more—including some on death row and some foreigners—for crimes ranging from drug smuggling to murder are kept at Bang Kwang maximum security prison outside Bangkok. The prison has concrete walls, electrified fences and armed guards, Off late the prison has become something of a tourist attraction with foreign tourist seeking out the few dozen Western inmates to give them gifts and encouragement.
Book: Forget You Had a Daughter—Doing Time in the ‘Bangkok Hilton by Sandra Gregory and Michael Tierney (Vision) recounts the experience of a young British woman after she was arrested at Bangkok Airport of trying to smuggle heroin into Japan. The film Brokedown Palace (1999) is a fictionalized version of a similar story.
Articles on thaiprisonlife.com ; Marriage behind bars in Thailand; Prisoner killed in Trang jail; Electronic tagging instead of jail to be introduced for Thai inmates; Demolition work begins to transform prison into holy park; Tasmanian faces Thai jail; Bangkok prison phone jammer zaps AIS; Inmate helps fellow prisoner escape; PSV Eindhoven visit Klong Prem Prison; Corrections chief wants royal rites for warder slain by inmates; Warder killed in jail bust bid; 16-year Hell in a Thai Prison for Women; Drug Smuggler Michael Connell Back in the UK; Longest-serving farang at 'Bangkok Hilton' is checking out; Inmate helps fellow prisoner escape; Rare Pictures from Inside a Thai Prison Cell; Capital punishment in Thailand; Tasmanian faces Thai jail; Convicted pedophile 'Mr. Swirl' arrested upon return from Thailand; Woman forced to eat MAGGOTS while locked up in Thai prison for NINE YEARS; Air-conditioned vehicles to provide relief to prisoners. [Source: Thaiprisonlife.com
Poor Conditions and Overcrowding in Thai Prisons
Richard Barrow wrote on his blog: “Unlike their American or European counterparts, Thai prisoners live in open rooms with no beds or furniture of any kind. They aren’t even given any bedding. Sheets can be bought and some people stuff these with old clothes in order to make pillows. Each cell is about four metres by seven metres. On each side, people are lying side by side with their feet facing the middle. Then, down the center of the cell, there are two rows of other prisoners. There are on average at least 50 prisoners in this one cell. There isn’t enough room for all of them to lie on their back. New prisoners are only allocated another room to lie on their side. They are packed in so tightly that they cannot turn over. If they have any money, they can bribe the cell boss to let them lie on their backs. But, there isn’t enough room for them to all do that. [Source: Richard Barrow, thaiprisonlife.com , March 11, 2008 ==]
“The prisoners have already eaten and showered by 3.30 p.m. and then they are taken up to their cells. There are only two fans so you can imagine with so many people in the cell that it heats up quickly and the smell from sweaty bodies becomes overpowering. The squat toilet is at the far end of the cell. This has a low wall about two feet high. Imagine what it would be like if you needed to answer the call of nature during the night and had to clamber over all these bodies. At least the lights are kept on all the time. But then, that is also a curse because it makes it difficult to sleep. The prisoners are locked in here for 14 hours per day. They are not allowed to bring any food up to the cells. If you have enough money, you can bribe the cell boss and prison guards to allow you to be transferred to another cell. But, they are all much the same as each other. ==]
“It wasn’t always like this. Since the government declared an anti drug policy in 1998, the prison population increased greatly. In fact, 60 percent of the prison population today are there due to narcotic offences. In the past, property crime was the biggest offence. But now, that is only 19 percent. As a result, Thailand has one of the highest ratio of prisoners to population in the world. The following is a chart of prison population over the last ten years. At present, there are 139 prisons around the Thailand with 245,033 sq.m. of sleeping space. The Department of Corrections stipulates that each prisoner should have 2.25 sq.m. each. That would mean a maximum prison population of 108,904 prisoners. The statistics show how badly the prisons are overcrowded. ==
“Recognizing this problem, the Thai government undertook a number of measures to help reduce overcrowding. In 1999 and 2003 there were collective royal pardons. Then, in late 2003, the Narcotic Rehabilitation Act stipulated that drug offenders, especially those who were drug users, should be sent to Drug Rehabilitation Centers. Although there is a slow downward trend, it is not solving the main problem. The increase of drug offenders was only one reason for the increase in prisoners. There is also the problem of unsentenced offenders who make up a staggering 30 percent of the prison population. Normally these people should be sent to special remand prisons. But, due to the overcrowding, potentially innocent people are mixed in with hardened criminals. The courts are also crowded, so prisoners who cannot afford the bail may have to wait up to a year in prison awaiting trial. Then they might have to wait another year for their appeal to be heard.==
“The third reason for overcrowding in Thai prisons is the liberal use of imprisonment as a punishment. Even for petty crimes such as stealing, gambling and offences against traffic laws. In other countries, offenders are often given probation or suspended sentences. In my own province of Samut Prakan, I have been told that nearly twenty foreigners are arrested every month at the airport for stealing and are then sentenced by the courts to a minimum of 6 months. One person I know from America only stole some face wash and he got this sentence. Another was an elderly gentleman from Australia who stole a watch. He said he tried to pay for it straight away and any fine they wanted with his credit cards, but they insisted on arresting him and sending him to court. Then there are people in prison who just didn’t have enough money to pay the fine. ==
“Apart from overcrowding, general prison conditions have improved over the years. Beatings by sadistic guards are less common. Even the food can be quite good. One foreign prisoner that I visited a few times at the notorious Bang Kwang Prison said that the best thing was the Thai food that he paid a Thai prisoner to cook for him. Basically if you have money then you can make your life a bit easier. From paying for extra space in the cell and for bedding, to having better food and even clean water to bathe in. But, the majority of the Thai prison population do not have anyone on the outside to support them and many of them are barely surviving. ==
Human Rights in Thailand
Human rights issues in Thailand are handled by three different government agencies: 1) the Justice Ministry, 2) the Social Welfare and Human Security Ministry and 3) the Foreign Ministry. A Thai rights commission was set up in 1997. Critics claim it has not achieved much. Thailand spent seven years preparing its first human rights report submitted to the United Nations in July 2005.
Major human rights issues in Thailand: 1) the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and insurgents in the Muslim south; 2) the treatment of refugees and Rohingyas and Hmong minorities from Myanmar and Laos; 3) Censure of the Internet and arrest of individuals for insulting the monarchy using lese majeste and computer crime laws. Civil liberties according to Freedom House (on a scale of 1, most free, to 7, least free): 4.
According to the Library of Congress: Following the September 19, 2006, military coup, the Council for National Security—the junta’s ruling body—imposed some limits on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. Prior to the coup [and after], the government...generally respected the human rights of its citizens. Some significant problems, however, continued under the interim government. During 2006, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices , “security forces continued to use excessive force against criminal suspects and committed or were connected to dozens of extrajudicial, arbitrary, and unlawful killings.” There also were reports that disappearances continued in the southern provinces, particularly after the missing allegedly had been questioned by security officials. There also were reports that police tortured, beat, and otherwise abused detainees and prisoners, generally with impunity. Authorities used defamation suits and, in some cases, charges of sedition against critics, which led to self-censorship by the media and nongovernmental organizations. Human rights workers, particularly those focusing on disappearances and the violence in the south, experienced government harassment. Thailand continued to be a source, transit point, and destination for trafficking in women and children for a variety of purposes, including indentured servitude, forced labor, and prostitution. Members of hill tribes without proper documentation continued to face restrictions on their movement, could not own land, and were not protected by labor laws.
In 2004, the Thai-government-sponsored National Human Refugees Commission issued a report on the state of human rights in Thailand. It is unusual for a country to issue a report on its own human rights. Most of the complaints filled with the Commission were related to injustices and the rule of law. The greatest abuse was the high number of extrajudicial killings. The report also criticized the government for being authoritarian and champing down too harshly on dissent.
Also See Human Trafficking Under Crime, the Muslim South, The Internet Under Culture, Lese Majeste Laws Under the Royal Family and the Anti-Drug Campaign Under Drugs, Censorship and Freedom of the Press Under the Media and Culture. Also check out Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports on Thailand.
Forced Disappearances in Thailand
Kavi Chongkittavorn wrote in The Nation: “Internationally, Thailand has a bad reputation concerning its progress on reports of forced disappearances. Since it filed its first disappearance case of Thanong Poarn in 1992 the country has not made one iota of progress related to the 35 reported cases of disappearances. Hundreds of families and relatives still have not been able to have closure on the forced disappearances that occurred during the past atrocities, including the October 14, 1973 and October 6, 1976 student uprisings, the bloodshed in May 1992, and the hundreds of disappearances in Thailand's Northeast and South. [Source: Kavi Chongkittavorn, The Nation, September 1, 2008]
Somchai Neelapaichit, a Muslim human rights lawyer disappeared in March 2004 just a few weeks after he had claimed police had tortured five suspects in the theft of guns from an Army base in Narathiwat in January 2004. On March 12, Mr Neelapaichit disappeared, last seen being bundled into car by several men. He is believed to have been murdered, althougth his body has never been recovered. Somchai Homla-or, another human rights lawyer and close friend of Mr Neelapaichit, says the suspected killing was directly linked to charges he had raised of police use of torture. While five police officers were later detained they have so far faced only minor charges. [Source: Ron Corben, Radio Australia, February 8, 2010]
Four Thai prime ministers going back to Thaksin Shinawatra have all acknowledged that police and government officials were involved in Mr Neelapaichit's abduction. In January 2006 Thaksin said, “I know that Somchai is dead, and more than four government officials were involved, but witnesses and evidence are still being collected. “ Mr Neelapaichit's case is being handled by Justice Ministry's Department of Special Investigations.
Families of Thai Forced Disappearance Victims
Angkana Neelaphaijit lost her husband Somchai in March, 2004, while he was fighting for justice for a group of young Thai-Malays who were alleged to have been part of the separatist movement in the South. Over the past four years, Angkana has been exhausting all available means to bring the perpetrators to justice. Her efforts so far have proven futile. Her husband's killers are police officers who wanted to prevent Somchai from further exposing police torture of suspects in detention. They decided to shut him up forever. Those involved in the year-long investigation, including her, know exactly who the killers and their collaborators were. But the arms of the Thai justice system are too short to reach one of their own. [Source: Kavi Chongkittavorn, The Nation, September 1, 2008+++]
“She has now transformed into a tough and persistent campaigner to stop forced disappearances in Thailand. The Working Group on Justice for Peace (WGJP), which she co-founded to help families and relatives of victims of forced disappearances, is campaigning for Thailand's ratification of the UN Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The government of Surayud Chulanont ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, recognising the urgent need to address the culture of impunity that enshrouds police detention. +++
“Akharawin Laosophaphant’s father Kamol disappeared from a police station in Khon Kaen in February 2008. As a well-to-do Thai-Chinese businessman, Kamol took on the rather unusual task of fighting police corruption, which brought deadly consequences. +++
“Somchai Chamee, a member of the Lahu minority, was only 11 years old when his father, Meesai, was taken from his home by force in Chiang Rai in early 2003. It was a time of madness when the Thaksin government was embarking on its infamous "shoot-to-kill" anti-drug campaign that led to widespread extrajudicial killings throughout the country. After the first phase of the three-month campaign, more than 2,500 suspects were killed. There has been no explanation whatsoever until this day about what happened to him, not to mention the estimated 200-plus disappearances in the three southernmost provinces between 2003 and 2005. +++
“In the past, dozens of Lahu as well as other minority groups were forcefully dragged away from their homes without any explanation. Sila Chahae, 30, is one of a fortunate few Lahu who managed to escape death and now lives to tell others of his plight. He was kept in a pit that measured four-by-four metres and was seven metres deep, along with seven other persons for one week without a toilet or access to water. Other minorities might have different horror stories to tell but one theme remained constant - they were made to suffer at the hands of state security forces. +++
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated May 2014