• Angkhana Neelapaichit, commissioner of National Human Rights, visits the detained woman on Sunday.
  • Photo provided by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Junta under fire over detention of woman

politics September 11, 2018 07:51

By Kas Chanwanpen
The Nation

7,002 Viewed

Activists warn Thailand becoming A ‘ROGUE STATE’ while Prawit hints at separatist activity

Right advocates have condemned the Thai military for its arbitrary detention of a woman in military barracks without any formal legal charges for possessing T-shirts allegedly connected with separatists. Three other individuals are also reported to have been detained and charged in the same case. 

Brad Adams, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said yesterday that the arbitrary use of arrests, combined with a contempt for human rights and the rule of law, was turning Thailand into a rogue state.

“The government should immediately remove Wannapha [the woman arrested] from military custody, give her access to a lawyer and release her unless she is credibly charged,” Adams said after the woman’s plight came to light.

His comment was in response to the recent detention of Wannapha, whose last name has been withheld, over a vague allegation that she was somehow connected to the so-called “Federation of Thai States” with evidence of some of her T-shirts bearing a small red-and-white emblem, which is reportedly the group’s flag. Wannapha is currently being detained at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok.

The military has the authority to arrest and detain people for up to seven days without charge, as well as to interrogate them without access to lawyers or any guarantee about their treatment, according to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Order No 3/2558.

Human rights lawyer Pawinee Chumsri told The Nation yesterday that the military had informed lawyers to prepare a bail application for Wannapha, although it remains unclear whether she would still face charges.

However, Pawinee feared the woman would be charged with instigation of an offence under Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code.

Initially, her family insisted that Wannapha, who is a motorcycle-taxi rider, had never joined any political movement, according to the lawyer. “She’s just living hand to mouth,” said Pawinee. 

In a related development, the lawyer said three other individuals had already been charged with instigation and detained in Bangkok Remand Prison in connection with possession of similar T-shirts. One of them had been freed on bail, she said. 

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who is in charge of security matters, said yesterday that the T-shirt belonged to a political party and symbolised the hopes of separatists.

“I want to ask do we need to arrest [her] when that’s the case?” Prawit asked rhetorically.

Rights advocates have been lining up to condemn the woman’s detention as a violation of her rights.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) demanded the immediate release of Wannapha, claiming her arrest equated to the junta’s disrespect for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

“All these irregular incidents have become regular, which is unacceptable. The state is obliged to uphold people’s rights and freedoms,” said TLHR chairperson Yaowalak Anuphan. “If the state finds any act culpable, they should proceed to act according to what is provided for in the Criminal Procedure Code.”

What Tingsmith, president of the National Human Rights Commission, said yesterday that the agency would discuss the issue this week.

“We’ll see if the use of such a special law is reasonable during the lead-up to the election. The atmosphere should be more relaxed so as to reduce conflict,” he said.