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CrCF Open Letter to the Prime Minister on the Protection of Juvenile Justice in Southern Thailand


Open Letter

23 February 2012

Subject: Recommendations to the Royal Thai Government concerning the enforcement of security laws and protection of children’s rights in the justice process 

Her Excellency the Prime minister

1. The House Speaker
2. The President of the Senate
3. Minister of Foreign Affairs
4. Minister of Social Development and Human Security
5. Minister of Justice
6. President of Supreme Court

1. Recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and United Nations Human Rights Council;
2. The book called “Scars on the Moon”.

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) is a Non-Governmental Organization that has published the report entitled “Juvenile Justice System: The case of children and youth being involved with procedures provided by security laws in the Southern Border Provinces”. Reflecting impacts of the enforcement of security laws on children, the report has been submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the Office of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on 24th and 25th January 2012. Concerning the same event, CrCF welcomed and highly appreciated the production by the RTG of a report on the children’s situation and observed the RTG’s intention to uphold and protect the rights of the child and child development in compliance with the commitments Thailand has expressed as a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Nevertheless, during the review of the RTG’s report on the children’s situation, an emphasis was delivered on the protection of the rights of the child in violent conflicts, particularly following the observations included in CrCF’s report entitled “Juvenile Justice System: The case of children and youth being involved with procedures provided by security laws in the Southern Border Provinces”. According to these observations, the enforcement of the Martial Law Act B.E. 2457 (1914) and the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in States of Emergency B.E. 2548 (2005) in the SBPs since 2004 allows the authorities to hold in custody any child suspect up to 37 days. Without any effective safeguards, the detention has led to violations of the physical and psychological integrity of the children in the context of the administration of justice.

A lack of such safeguards in the juvenile justice system may breach the child rights protection standards provided by the Juvenile and Family Court and its Procedures Act which is applicable countrywide. The 36 documented cases related to children held in custody under the security laws constitute number of evidences of the violations of the rights of the child since the enforcement of the Operation for Protection of the South since 2007. Cordon off, searches and arrests have since been conducted by security officials in community and households in order to search for any person, children included, who is suspected of being involved with the unrest. As a result, the rights and liberties of children and youth, including their personal development, have been made vulnerable. Many of them are awaken very early in the morning while the cordon and searches take place. Some are arrested and held in custody in military barracks, together with adults, for days, weeks or even months. In many instances, their parents are not informed as to where their children are being held in custody and are denied visits. Some have even been threatened with physical abuses.

CrCF understands the gravity of the problems linked to the insurgency in the SBPs and the necessity for law enforcement officials to conduct security-related operations including the search and arrest of suspects. We are also aware of the challenges met by law enforcement officials, at both the policy and local levels, in their operations. Nevertheless, protection of the rights of the child in the justice system is not only a duty the State and law enforcement officials have to carry out stringently; indeed, it can also be considered as an opportunity to resolve the unrest in the area. Such a careful human rights based approach shall increase trust in the justice process among local people.
It will enhance mutual trust and draw out support for the solutions proposed by the government based on the rule of law in order to put an end to the chronic resurgences of violence which have been lasting for more than eight years. CrCF would like to suggest the following recommendations to the Prime Minister;

1. Ensure compliance with international law, and most notably the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocol related to conflict situations, the Convention against Torture, inhuman and degrading treatments and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

2. Accept recommendations made by the Human Rights Council to the RTG during the Universal Periodic Review, particularly concerning the segregation of juveniles from adults in detention, the review of security laws in order to ensure their conformity with international human rights standards with regard to juvenile alleged offenders. Also, following the recommendation suggested by the HRC, we support the idea that investigations have to be carried out promptly in order to ensure accountability concerning the officials involved in human rights abuses;

3. The government should implement the recommendations suggested by the Committee on the Rights of the Child calling upon the State party to review the enforcement of its security laws which may violate the principles related to the protection of the rights of the child including the prohibition of the detention of children in military detention centers and the application of the juvenile justice process to any child suspects.

4. Specific procedures and regulations for child suspects should be implemented, particularly for those concerned with the arrest and detention invoking security laws;

5. Safeguard measures should be implemented in order to ensure that children are free from being forced to confess or physically abused during the interrogation and detention.

6. Avoid the cordon and search, arrest and detention as well as interrogation of children invoking Martial Law and Emergency Decree;

7. Ensure access to a quality education with safety for all children in the conflict areas;

8. The State must ensure that during the interrogation and detention of the children suspected, their access to legal counsels of their choice, psychologists, social workers and public prosecutors must be guaranteed as per Section 40(6) of the 2007 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand; 

9. An impartial inquiry committee should be set up to investigate any violation of the rights of children while being held in custody to prevent impunity of the perpetrators and to hold accountable any persons involved with the infliction of cruel and physical abuses against the children being held in custody.

CrCF would like to urge the PM to ensure that all governmental sectors implement the recommendations made by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Committee on the Rights of the Child and implement all necessary measures in order to uphold and improve the rights of the child through the administration of justice in the SBPs. 

Thank you very much.
Yours faithfully,

Pornpen Khongkachonkiet
Director, Cross Cultural Foundation

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