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Yala students claim for compensation for being tortured in army custody in 2008


Bangkok Civil Court accepted the civil lawsuit filed by the two Yala students against the Thai Army and Ministry of Defense. The students are claiming for compensation for being tortured in army custody in 2008. This challenge in Court of Justice aims at setting legal precedent to ensure responsibility of army personal and authority involved in the act of torture.

On 14th January 2009, Mr. Issamae Tae and Mr. Armeesee Manark filed a case against Royal Thai Army and Ministry of Defense at Bangkok Civil Court to claim compensation for torture. Mr. Issamae Tae and Mr. Armeesee Manark are students from a university in Yala Province. On 27th January 2008 they were arrested from their house in Yala Province by army officers. Issamae Tae and Armeesee Manark were detained for interrogation under the Martial Law Act and the Emergency Decree until 4th February 2008. The two students claimed that they had been beaten and tortured during their detention.

To deal with the insurgency in the Deep South, the State imposed the Martial Law in 2004 and the Emergency Decree in 2005. Both these special laws continue to be in force in the provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani even today. These laws give special powers to the authorities to arrest and detain suspects up to 37 days without charge. During the last four years, there has been an increase in reports relating to torture and ill-treatment by security forces in these three provinces. Many of such reports relate to torture and ill-treatment in detention places. Student activists are vulnerable to being arrested on suspicions of supporting the insurgency since security officers hope to get more information about them about the insurgent movement.

According to AI report released on 13th January 2008, the Thai army and police routinely torture suspected Muslim insurgents in the far south, using everything from beatings to electric shocks to simulated suffocation. Amnesty International also stated that “There is the systematic nature of torture and other ill-treatment in southern Thailand to provisions of Martial Law and Emergency Decree in effect in the area and call for the Royal Thai Government to immediately ensure that the security forces stop committing torture and other ill-treatment under all circumstance”

However so far none of these complaints have been internally investigated properly (impartially and independently) and there has not been any case of torture offence taken up to either Military court or civilian court. The tortured victims have no protection and no access to justice or adequate redress. All of them after terrified experience, severe injured, or being charged of terrorisms, they are living in fear for their security , now spending time waiting for trial as defendants, or flee overseas. Another reason is the lack of effective legal assistance. In Thai law, torture is not yet included in the Penal Code as a “criminal offence”. It is not easy to file the normal criminal offence against officials due to lacking of evidence and witnesses. Often the detainees under security officer’s custody are kept in secret locations and many times wounds from torture disappeared before they can take any legal action against perpetrators.

The challenge in Court of Justice today is the first challenge which aims at creating legal precedent in determining state accountability over the act of torture while the criminal lawsuit could not be done. And to ensure the complainants’ security are protect while claiming for their rights through the judicial system, and that rights of access to justice is respected especially for the people in the deep southern Thailand. We hope that this case will pave the way to then the act of torture would be enacted as a “criminal offence” to ensure that justice are delivered to the victims and their family and the principles of prohibition of torture enshrined in the constitution and international human rights treaties are respected.

The court accepts the case and granted exemption from paying court fees for both plaintiffs. The next hearing is set on 30 Mar 2009 at 9.00 am.

For more information please contact

Pornpen Khongkachonkieat: Access to Justice and Legal Protection Project, Cross Cultural Foundation 02-6934939 Email: noinoipornpen@gmail.com

Janjira Janpaew: Human Rights Lawyer Association Email: fullmoonism@hotmail.com Mobile: +66-83-9072032