Rights activists charged with defamation
THREE prominent Thai rights defenders were charged on July 26 with criminal defamation over a rare report describing torture suffered by detainees in the restive south.
Thailand’s southern tip is a hotbed of violence, with more than 6500 people killed in a 12-year insurgency by Muslim rebels against the Buddhistmajority state.
But the near-daily shootings and bombings make few international headlines, and watchdog groups say rights abuses are frequent in the shadowy region governed for a decade by emergency laws.
Three activists behind the landmark report on torture allegedly carried out by soldiers in the south are now facing jail time after the military charged them with defamation, which carries a two-year prison sentence, and with violating the computer crimes which carries three years.
Rights groups say both broadly worded laws are routinely used by powerful interests to silence critics.
“All three denied the charges and will submit written testimonies later,” Winyou Tiamrat, the police officer handling the case in the southern province of Pattani, said of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Anchana Heemmina and Somchai Homlaor. act,
Their report, based on interviews with 54 former detainees, described a host of physical and mental torture tactics used by soldiers and police.
Beatings, threats at gunpoint, sensory deprivation and partial suffocation were all routine during detention, the report said.
The military, which denied the report’s allegations, has in the past admitted rights abuses but prosecutions of soldiers are extremely rare. –
Weapons are laid out in a bunker during Thai army commander-in-chief Teerachai Nakwanich’s visit to a military base in the restive southern province of Narathiwat on July 26.