Thailand should immediately cease misusing criminal and civil defamation laws to legally harass victims, human rights defenders and journalists who raise allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, the ICJ said today.
Yesterday, the Director of the Internal Operations Security Command (ISOC) Region 4, Lt. Gen. Piyawat Nakwanich, reportedly authorized Lt. Col. Seathtasit Kaewkumuang to lodge defamation complaints against Isma-ae Tae, a founder of Patani Human Rights Organization (HAP).
ISOC is responsible for security operations in Thailand’s deep South.
“It is astonishing that after all of the Government’s repeated commitments to address allegations of torture and protect victims and human rights defenders, ISOC is now misusing the justice system to legally harass an alleged victim of torture,” said Kingsley Abbott, the ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia.
“Thailand should immediately stop these defamation complaints against Isma-ae Tae and ensure an investigation that meets international law and standards is conducted into all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment without delay,” he added.
The accusations relate to a TV program entitled “Policy by People” that aired on the Thai PBS channel on 5 February 2018 in which Isma-ae Tae described being tortured and ill-treated by Thai soldiers when he was a student in Yala, located in Thailand’s restive deep South.
Criminal defamation in Thailand carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and a fine of up to 200,000 Baht (USD $6,300).
The imposition of harsh penalties such as imprisonment or large fines under these laws has the effect of discouraging victims of torture or other ill-treatment from coming forward to seek the remedies and reparations to which they are entitled under international human rights law binding on Thailand, the ICJ said.
The complaints were made against the backdrop of a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court on 19 October 2016, which ordered the Royal Thai Army and the Defence Ministry to pay 305,000 baht (USD $9,700) compensation to Isma-ae Tae, after it found he was “physically assaulted” during detention and had been illegally detained for nine days – exceeding the limit of seven days permitted under Martial Law Act B.E. 2457 (1914) (Martial Law).
“Even more astonishing is that a superior Thai court has already found that the military physically assaulted Isma-ae Tae and awarded him compensation, which only serves to highlight the injustice of these complaints”, added Abbott.
In 2008, Isma-ae Tae was arrested pursuant to Martial Law and allegedly tortured in order to purportedly extract a confession in relation to a national security case. To date, no perpetrators have been brought to justice.
Kingsley Abbott, Senior International Legal Adviser, ICJ Asia Pacific Programme, t: +66 94 470 1345, e: email@example.com
Thailand-Isma-ae Tae defamation case-News-Press releases-2018-ENG (full story with additional information, in PDF)
Thailand-Isma-ae Tae defamation case-News-Press releases-2018-THA (Thai version of full sory, in PDF)
Further reading on the Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance ActNewsPress releases