Statement: Thai police must conduct a fair, full and transparent probe into the killing of alleged drug suspect in police custody.
(Bangkok, August 25, 2021) – A shocking video posted on Thai social media (August 24) shows police officers suffocating a drug suspect to death with plastic bags while in custody in an apparent attempt to force him to pay a two million baht bribe.
The video, which the Royal Thai police chief’s office confirms is genuine, shows five officers in a Nakon Sawan station restraining an already handcuffed and seated male suspect, while a senior officer suffocates the man with a plastic bag, causing him to wretch, shout in agony and eventually stop breathing.
Thailand’s national police chief has ordered a temporary suspension of the local head of Nakhon Sawan Province police who is accused of killing the suspect. However, after the complaint was filed, the immediate response of the regional commander was a transfer. Now the police suspect’s whereabouts are unknown.
“This is not the first death in custody in this country. It is just one that has been caught on camera,” said Pornpen Kongkachonkiet, Director of Cross Cultural Foundation.
“Trust in the police among the public is at rock bottom. This is yet another reminder of the urgent need for an end to police impunity and for the police force to demonstrate to the public – who pays their salaries – that they work for them.”
The Cross Cultural Foundation urges the Royal Thai Police probe to be full, transparent, free from interference and that the fullest punishment under the law is handed out – if applicable – followed up by an inquiry into police practices during custody.
“This should never happen in a decent society. The rights of a suspect – no matter what the allegation is against them – must be protected under the UN Convention against Torture, which Thailand signed in 2012,” Pornpen said.
“We call on the Thai government to fully implement the Convention against Torture and ratify the Convention on Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances as soon as possible.”
While some pro-democracy protesters are still in jail for defamation charges, the police suspect in a murder was allowed a transfer and a temporary suspension. The CrCF sincerely hopes any punishment of the officers fit the severity of this shocking crime.
Thailand’s national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk told the media on August 24 that the death in custody was because of “just one bad apple.”
“I believe most police are good people. If the public mistrusts the police force, then we can’t really live in the same society,” he added.
The CrCF welcomes his recognition of the role of consent in policing. Now we urge authorities to make sure that justice is served to its fullest under the law.
The Cross Cultural Foundation has documented at least 20 cases of abuse and death in custody. The latest in July last year occurred when a pair of alleged drug suspects were brutally tortured by a drug suppression unit in Nakhon Phanom – one died later in a hospital. The case was settled so further investigation could not be undertaken.
Earlier this year, the Thai government sent a report to the UN Convention on Torture (CAT) detailing its commitment “at the highest level to the promotion and protection of human rights, including the fight against torture.“
On February 12, 2018 the Prime Minister said he “attached importance to preventive and awareness-raising measures, as well as legislation prohibiting torture in support of the implementation of the Convention.”
It is time Thailand lives up to its own commitments.
Four draft laws to suppress and prevent torture and enforced disappearance have been submitted to parliament since 2016. But they’ve been sitting on the back burner since. Nearly a decade later after Thailand signed the convention, torture and ill-treatment in custody are still not a crime under Thai law.
On August 17, the Cabinet agreed to expedite the draft laws onto the parliamentary agenda in a letter also sent to the Secretariat of the Privy Council.
For more information: Ms Pornpen Kongkachonkiet is available for additional comments at firstname.lastname@example.org; +66 65 59793836