BANGKOK (24 November 2015) – The United Nations Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) calls for the immediate closure of a Bangkok military detention facility where two inmates died over the past month, and urges the Thai Government to include independent experts to join an investigation into the cases.
OHCHR also calls on the Government to stop using military facilities to hold civilian detainees.
On 11 September, the Ministry of Justice issued an order designating the 11th Military Circle as a temporary remand centre to hold individuals on charges related to national security and other special cases
Two people accused of being involved in the deadly Bangkok bombing of 17 August 2015 and three others arrested on fraud and lèse-majesté charges were sent to the facility. Thai authorities said that Pol. Maj. Prakom Warunprapha, one of the lèse-majesté detainees, died at the facility on 23 October after he was found hanging by a shirt in his cell. On 7 November, Mr. Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, another lèse-majesté detainee, was found dead in his cell. Authorities said he died from blood poisoning.
The UN Human Rights Office has asked the Thai Government to conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial inquiry into the two deaths in custody. Matilda Bogner, OHCHR’s regional representative, said an independent and impartial investigation would clarify the circumstances of the deaths, ensure accountability and help prevent further similar incidents. She added, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand should help with any investigation. Bogner also stressed that the results of the inquiry should be made public.
“The use of a military barracks as a detention facility is prone to human rights violations, including torture,” said Bogner.
In October 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment sent a joint letter to the Government concerning allegations of torture and inhuman treatment of five individuals by military officers. In the letter, the UN experts wrote they were concerned by reports that the detainees, who were being held in military facilities in and around Bangkok, were subjected to physical abuse, threats of execution, electrocution and solitary confinement.
Referring to the military detention of civilians, Bogner said it appeared that at least some of the military officers were not suitably trained to run such a detention facility, and that the rights of the detainees had not been fully met. “It was reported that a lawyer representing one of the suspects in the Bangkok bombing case was not allowed to meet with his client in a confidential manner, and that he had his questions screened beforehand,” she said. “ International Law guarantees due process rights for detainees, including prompt, confidential and regular access to lawyers. Breaches of due process rights leads to an environment of increased risk to the safety of detainees.”