CrCF memo on 5 Nov 2020
Meeting the Minister of Justice
This is the first time since 2019, that we have met the Minister of Justice; here is our short note;
The meeting opened up with the introduction of the organization representatives in attendance, including those from CrCF, Union for Civil liberty and Amnesty International, in addition to the family members of victims of enforced disappearance and torture for confessions. The main complaint brought up is the slow response and sometimes downright obstructions within the justice system when the family members approached the state to request aid in their pursuit of justice.
One of the victims’ family members, Somsak Chuenjit, who’s 18-year-old son was subject to torture by a police officer who suspected him of theft. Somsak’s son was tortured by forcibly having a bag placed around his head, cutting off airflow and simulating suffocation. This continued until he confessed to the crime, despite how the son knew he was innocent.
Eventually, Somsak’s son was released, but a year later, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the traumatic event. He has been on medication ever since, to the present day. Later on, Somsak wanted to pursue justice for his son, so he approached the Thai government to present his case. However, he received no help from the government, and all he was told concerned delays in the legal system, despite being a Thai citizen himself.
Since he received no help from the state agencies, 20 of them where Somsak spent 5 years submitting his complaints in person and by post. Somsak turned to organizations such as the Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF) and Amnesty International to help provide aid to him in his pursuit of justice. The first problem arises as he made the decision to delay the lawsuit towards the state officers as his son was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the event, and he did not want more exposure concerning the torture incident and trauma impact on his son so soon, which would be detrimental to his son’s mental health.
Thus, the case is still going on, despite the incident happening 10 years ago. Furthermore, while he was bringing up the case, one of the police perpetrators brought up his own lawsuit against his son, citing that the incident happened too long ago, the statute of limitation for the complaints was over.
This legal technic worked in the injustice judicial system in Prachinburi Province. What ended up happening was that Somsak’s son, who was the victim of torture, diagnosed with PTSD and has the medical documentation to support this, was then sentenced to 5 years in prison with a 100,000 baht fine. The 5 years sentenced was on probation.
In another court case that Somsak’s son pursuits to find justice on the torture crime happened to him when he was only 18 years old, one senior police officer who found guilty of torturing his son, on the other hand, was sentenced two years with probation and was only fined 6,000 baht once more evidence was discovered.
Overall, Somsak lost approximately 6 million baht in expenses in the pursuit of justice for his son. This would not be possible without aid of various organizations, while he has not received as much help from his own government. Somsak’s son was recently cleared of all charges against him as of 27th October 2020 due to appeal court decision overthrown the first court decision of 5 years sentenced.
Another case which the meeting in the ministry of justice discussed was the case of the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm. In essence, Wanchalearm’s sister, Sitanun, is going to travel to Cambodia on the 10th of November 2020, and the trip will last until December due to quarantine restrictions. She is making this trip with the intention to give her legal statement there and requests if there is any financial aid which can be given by the ministry of justice in this endeavor.
Another topic was the shaving of the students who were brought into temporary detainment for a few days, but had their head shaved. The main problem with this was that the state officers should follow standard protocols and read out their rights, so there is no confusion why it is happening. The reasoning is that having long hair increases risk of spreading diseases due to being more difficult to keep clean, especially in a detainment area, which would have limited cleaning time and facilities.
Lastly, there were cases where officers out of uniform went and detained protestors. However, they did not announce their rank or status, did not present any credentials, and used excessive physical force, including head locking until on the brink of unconsciousness. This reinforces the need for proper protocols and standards to be established, as power can just be abused as it currently is. A reinforced set of protocols and standards that are followed will go a long way in promoting a better justice system for the country
CrCF memo on 5 Nov 2020