Tag Archives: Sombat Amornwiwat

March 12, 2004

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It has been four years since Somchai Neelaphaijit disappeared; four long years of heartbreak for his family, four years of unanswered questions.

Somchai did not disappear by accident, but by force. Yet despite wide publicity and persistent efforts to hold the culprits to account, Thailand’s criminal justice system has utterly failed a person who in life had not failed it.

Somchai was a lawyer with a keen sense of justice, and a good one at that. He took on cases that others wouldn’t touch, cases that didn’t earn him any friends in high places. He successfully defended accused terrorists and separatists. He set up a free legal aid service and received a national award in acknowledgement of his work.

Prior to disappearing, Somchai met with five young men in police custody who said that they had been tortured. According to letters that he prepared on their behalf, they had been kicked, electrocuted and urinated upon. One had been hanged from the hook of a toilet door and hit on the head with a lump of wood.

On March 11, 2004 Somchai publicly accused the police of torture and said that he would take the case to the highest levels. Coming from him, this was no idle warning. Someone took it seriously. Continue reading

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A policy of not solving human rights cases

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In recent weeks Thailand’s media has attentively reported on the arrest of some paramilitary police who are alleged to have abducted and framed tens, perhaps hundreds, of people.

The Border Patrol Police officers set up most of their victims on charges under which the accused could not get bail. Some they released after receiving ransom. One of these, a middle-aged woman, in January set off the alarm after she, her son and two others had been freed. Since then, over 60 more have complained to the Rights and Liberties Protection Department. At least 180 inmates have reportedly sought for their files to be reopened.

Victims have described how they were held in groups and tortured. According to one, she and her partner [above] were taken to a bungalow where they saw at least twenty more people tied up, some hooded; a few with smashed teeth and bruised faces. Another has claimed that she was electrocuted while pregnant, despite pleading for her baby. She gave birth in remand, awaiting a trial in which she was acquitted of any crime.

A few years ago, a case like this would have been accompanied by loud calls for it to be moved outside of the police force and into the hands of the Department of Special Investigation. But such calls have been noticeably absent this time around. Continue reading