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in-focus

Army under fire over death of conscript


Spokesman blames soldiers’ poor health, leaders’ inability to control emotions for string of fatalities.

HUMAN RIGHTS campaigners condemned the fatal torture of a conscript at a military base in Surat Thani on Saturday, while the Army admitted some commanders became too angry when punishing subordinates.
Pictures of conscript Private Yuthinan Boonniam, who was hospitalised with a swollen face and bruises, were widely shared on social media on Saturday, as this year’s annual military draft proceeded.
Angkhana Neelapaijit, commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), pointed out that this was not the first case of torture resulting in death at a military training camp, while urging the Army to stop using harsh punishment and respect draftees’ human rights.
Offering her condolences to the victim’s family, she said: “As it is a duty for Thai men to serve as conscripts to serve their country, the Army also has a duty to take good care of them and respect their human rights.
“The death of Private Yuthinan was a tragic one and can be considered as a human rights violation. The NHRC will discuss how to deal with the case on Tuesday.”
She said torture and harsh punishment in military camps were nothing new, as the NHRC had earlier considered the case of Private Wichian Phuaksom, who was tortured to death at a training camp in Narathiwat in 2011. Following that incident, the NHRC submitted recommendations to the Army.
“We have asked the Army to stop the violent punishment and torture. Moreover, the Army has to properly compensate the family of the victim too,” she said.
Preeda Nakpiew, a lawyer from the Cross Cultural Foundation, said his organisation had assisted in legal battles regarding at least three similar cases, including those of Wichian and Private Songtham Mudmad, who was beaten to death at a military base in Yala last year.
“It is totally illegal to torture anyone, even if they are subordinates in the Army. Our organisation is trying hard to campaign on the inspection of exercise of power inside military bases, but so far our efforts have not been fruitful,” Preeda said.
“This is a chronic problem in the Army. Most of the time, the exercise of power at a military base is left unchecked and there is no control on the use of power to order or punish someone, despite there being clear rules about this.”
Maj-General Wichai Thassan-amontian, commander of the Military Circle 45, ordered the two soldiers allegedly involved in the torture of Private Yuthinan Boonniam, which led to his death, to be removed from their posts at Military Circle 45 to facilitate further investigation.
Wichai also ordered the setting up of a committee to investigate the death of Private Yuthinan.
Meanwhile, Royal Thai Army spokesperson Colonel Winthai Suvaree said Saturday’s incident was caused by commanders who did not control their emotions.
“The death of a conscript is very rare. Most of those [who died] had weak health or a chronic disease, so they had problems when facing intense punishment, and we find very few cases from more than 100,000 conscripts. We only find such a case once every year, or less than that,” Winthai said.
The spokesman said the incident would not have any effect on military conscription this year, because it was “a separate story”.
It has been reported that the number of conscriptions is slowly increasing every year. 
This year there was a need for 103,097 draftees compared to 101,307 in 2016 and 99,373 in 2015.
 

Published : April 02, 2017

By : PRATCH RUJIVANAROM THE NATION