Tag Archives: Criminal Procedure Code

Court ignores facts of Sabayoi killings

A court has held that police and civilian officials who killed 19 young men in the far south of Thailand early on April 28, 2004, were acting in self-defense. The defendants said they shot the men because they had been under attack, and the Songkhla provincial court ruled in September that the policemen’s testimonies were consistent and believable.

To reach this finding, the court had to ignore the facts. Some of the evidence it heard but omitted from its verdict included the testimony of a national human rights commissioner. She told the judges that her agency had uncovered nothing to prove that the dead men, aged 18 to 34, had been carrying weapons. Nor was there any discernible damage to the Sabayoi market police post that had supposedly been assaulted. Continue reading

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A 15-year trial is not a fair trial

This week the criminal court in Southern Bangkok sentenced four men to lengthy jail terms for their alleged roles in a plot to kill the former president of Thailand’s Supreme Court. The judges convicted the two organizers of the purported crime to 25 years each; the gunmen, from whom the police obtained confessions, to more than 16.

The court’s verdict is wrong. It is wrong not because the facts of the case favor the defendants, but because it took over 90 judges more than 15 years to reach this point. Continue reading

Getting the fish back into the water

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Photo: Boy at a checkpoint in the south (Steve Sandford)

เอาปลากลับคืนสู่น้ำ (ประชาไท)

When Madi Alilatay of Yala, southern Thailand was transferred to army premises on July 23 this year he was not charged with anything. He was not held under any law, for any reason, or for any purpose. At least, that is how the report of his custody reads. Although the 26-year-old plantation worker and eight others were ostensibly detained under sweeping emergency provisions in force across three southernmost provinces, the form consists of little more than officers’ and detainees’ names. Everything else is left blank. This is emergency law in action.

As a record of how a group of nine men were deprived of their liberty, it reflects an alarming disinterest in rules and procedure among soldiers and other personnel active in the south. And it is indicative of its type. The records of others taken during this time similarly reveal only who and when; nothing of how and why.

There are at least two reasons for this.

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A wedding video & an injustice system

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The wedding video of a Burmese general’s daughter has proved a surprise hit. Footage of Thandar Shwe’s glittering marriage ceremony (right) has since last July been watched around the country on black market CDs, and globally on You Tube and news broadcasts. It has shocked viewers unaccustomed to seeing firsthand the sheer extravagance enjoyed by an otherwise inaccessible elite. In some versions, it has been cut to incorporate scenes of abject poverty in and around Rangoon’s streets, in contrast to those of diamonds and champagne behind its walls.

One person who had copies was Ko Than Htun. Acting on a tip-off, in March a team of police raided his house and charged him with possessing videos that had not been approved by the board of censors. He was initially released on bail but later rearrested. Shortly thereafter police claiming to have information from Than Htun arrived at the house of Ko Tin Htay, who lives in the same township. Entering without a search warrant, they found nothing. They called him to the station on a pretext and arrested him there. The following day the local ruling council met and decided that both men should be charged with intent to cause public alarm.

In court, the police produced a statement taken from Ko Tin Htay and used it against him as evidence, which is illegal. Absurdly, they also produced a photograph of Aung San, Burma’s independence hero and father of democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to demonstrate that Tin Htay is politically active: a point anyhow irrelevant to the charges against the accused. Nonetheless, both Than Htun and Tin Htay were found guilty and sentenced respectively to over four years and two years in prison with hard labor. They have since been transferred away from their hometown and reportedly denied access to their families.

Two features of the case point to how years of dictatorship have thoroughly corrupted criminal law and procedure in Burma.

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