On 30 August 2019, on the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, the ICJ co-hosted an art exhibition, a closed-door round table discussion and a public forum titled “Enforced Disappearance and the Absence of a Law” to commemorate individuals who were subject to apparent enforced disappearance and whose fates remains unknown.
The closed-door round table discussion provided an opportunity for victims’ voices to be heard on challenges faced in gaining access to justice and redress. Relatives spoke about the challenges they face, mostly about the poor progress of investigations into the allegations of enforced disappearance against their relatives.
Sanhawan Srisod, the ICJ’s Legal Adviser, during the closed-door round table discussion, gave a briefing about the latest developments on the Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act. The legislation had been dropped by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) prior to the 2019 national elections, but is currently before the President of the National Assembly, pending his consideration to bring it before the House of Representative.
The public forum focused on the development and progress of the investigations into enforced disappearances and evaluated the progress in developing legislation in Thailand to address this critical issue.
During the public forum, Sanhawan Srisod highlighted that the Draft Act would, if adopted, fail to bring the law into full compliance with Thailand’s international human rights obligations. The key concerns include:
- Incomplete definitions of the crimes of enforced disappearance;
- The continuous nature of the crime of enforced disappearance that was not recognized in the Draft Act;
- Inadequacy of provisions on the command responsibility;
- Possibility that the military court may have power to try and adjudicate enforced disappearance cases; and
- Insufficient safeguards against enforced disappearances.
Thailand has signed but has yet to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
According to their 2018 annual report, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has recorded 86 outstanding cases of alleged enforced disappearance in Thailand.
The Thai government, through the recently set up Committee Managing Complaints for Torture and Enforced Disappearance Cases, says it is currently conducting investigations in connection with this list.
Closed-door round table discussion session included the following speakers: Ms. Phinnapha Phrueksaphan, wife of Mr. Porlajee Billy Rakchongcharoen; Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit, wife of Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit; Ms. Pranee Danwattananusorn, wife of Mr. Surachai Danwattananusorn; Mr. Adisorn Pho-Arn, son of Mr. Thanong Pho-Arn; Ms. Kanya Theerawut, mother of Mr. Siam Theerawut; Ms. Suphab Kamlae, wife of Mr. Den Kamlae; Mr. Prasert Laosophapan, brother of Mr. Kamon Laosophapan; Ms. Shui-Meng Ng, wife of Mr. Sombath Somphone from Lao PDR; Mr. Truong Son Nguyen, Regional Campaigner, Amnesty International Vietnam; Representatives, indigenous Lahu Community, Chiang Mai province; and Ms. Sanhawan Srisod, Legal Adviser, International Commission of Jurists
Public forum session included the following speakers: Ms. Shui-Meng Ng, representative of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances; Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit, wife of Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit; Ms. Phinnapha Phrueksaphan, wife of Mr. Porlajee Billy Rakchongcharoen; Mr. Angsukate Wisutwattanasak, Director of Security Cases Department 1, Department of Special Investigation (DSI); Ms. Nongporn Roongpetchwong, Human Rights Expert, Rights and Liberties Protection Department, Ministry of Justice; and Ms. Sanhawan Srisod, Legal Adviser, International Commission of Jurists. The opening session included remarks from Mr. Giuseppe Busini, Deputy Head of Mission of the Delegation of the European Union to Thailand, and Mr. Surapong Kongchantuk, President of the Cross-Cultural Foundation. The closing session included remarks from Mr. Badar Farrukh, Human Rights Officer, OHCHR Regional Representative for South East Asia.