The United Nations has assigned August 30 to be the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. It is the day that people around the world remember the families and victims of enforced disappearances which are the result of human rights violations, wars, government subjugations, or terrorism that have taken place in several parts of the world.
As a family member of an enforced disappearance victim, I realised that there are problems and obstacles that prevent me from getting the justice and truth about the victim’s fate, especially legal obstacles since Thailand currently has no law to punish the offenders in enforced disappearance cases.
Although the Cabinet signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: ICPPED at the United Nations on January 9, 2012 and later ratified the Convention as well as presented the Anti-torture and Enforced Disappearances Act to the Ministry of Justice on May 24, 2016, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) has taken too long to pass the law and has altered much important content in the Act. Moreover, the committee appointed by the NLA to consider the Anti-torture and Enforced Disappearances Act substantially lacks the participation of stakeholders and human rights experts. Eventually this act seems to be abandoned without any reason being giving as why, which is a huge step backward by the government in not doing what it had previously promised.
On May 23, 2017, the Prime Minister appointed a committee to handle complaints from victims of torture and enforced disappearances chaired by the Minister of Justice. However, after two years the committee is still unable to disclose the victims’ fate and locations as well as bring justice to the victims’ families, especially in cases where the evidence suggest that the offenders are government officials, such as in the cases of Somchai Neelapaijit, Polajee Rakchongcharoen and Kamol Laosophaphan.
On the occasion of International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, I wrote this open letter to remind the government, the House of Representatives, and related agencies of the following agendas:
1. The Ministry of Justice should bring back the original draft of the Anti-torture and Enforced Disappearances Act, which has undergone public hearing and participation, and present it to the Parliament to consider passing.
2. Since enforced disappearance is a crime with no expiration date, the committee that handles complaints from victims of torture and enforced disappearances, which is chaired by the Minister of Justice, should use all methods to track and disclose the victims’ fate and locations, as well as provide judicial and non-judicial remedies to the victims’ families. Moreover, the committee’s investigation must be fast, efficient, thorough, independent, fair and most importantly, transparent. Victims’ families must be periodically notified of the investigation’s progress.
3. The House Speaker should also take part in bringing back the original draft of the Anti-torture and Enforced Disappearances Act, which has undergone public hearings and participation, in order to consider passing the act. Furthermore, a special committee should be formed to handle the consideration, with the members consisting of experts in human rights and law, as well as individuals with experience in enforced disappearances, to make sure that the Anti-torture and Enforced Disappearances Act conforms to the UN’s ICPPED, and that it can actually protect Thai citizens from enforced disappearances.
4. While the Anti-torture and Enforced Disappearances Act is not yet ready, the House of Representatives should consider again providing ratification to the UN’s International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to ensure Thai citizens that the rightfully elected House of Representatives are committed to protecting people from enforced disappearances with the fullest genuineness and willingness.
Every year, families of enforced disappearance victims have to inquire into the justice and truth from the government, although it’s the government’s duty to provide justice to every citizen. I realise that my small voice may not reach the one in power at the Ministry of Justice, but the truth about enforced disappearance cases in Thailand cannot be covered up or denied, and trying to do so will only guarantee the failure of our justice system. Today the government and Parliament must choose between protecting the human rights [of Thai people or to protect] certain government officials who misused their authority to abduct and make other people disappear.
August 30, 2019
Published : August 30, 2019
By : The Nation