BANGKOK — The niece of an army conscript who was tortured to death by soldiers was arrested Tuesday on a complaint filed by the Thai military over her internet postings.
After being flown down to a police station in Naratiwat province, Naritsarawan was released on bail at 2am early Wednesday morning
Naritsarawan Kaewnopparat last year had posted photos of her uncle’s body and information about the torture he endured. She was arrested at her workplace in Bangkok on charges of criminal defamation and violating the Computer Crime Act.
Military personnel are rarely prosecuted for human rights abuses or other crimes in Thailand, and the military government that seized power in May 2014 has clamped down on free speech.
Naritsarawan won 7 million baht (USD$200,000) compensation in a malfeasance suit against the army, the defense ministry and the prime minister’s office, but the actual perpetrators went unpunished.
The army’s own investigation concluded Wichian Puaksorn was tortured by about 10 soldiers as punishment when he tried to run away a second time from his camp in the southern province of Narathiwat in June 2011. It said a first lieutenant gave the order and that Wichian was kicked, beaten and dragged across concrete; salt was rubbed in his wounds before he was wrapped in a sheet and beaten again.
“Naritsarawan acted as a representative and advocate in the place of her late uncle’s mother,” said Preeda Nakphew, an attorney for the Cross Cultural Foundation advocacy group. “She fought his case in court and was already paid compensation for his death, so it is unclear as to why the police are acting on this arrest warrant now.”
In a separate case, three human rights activists who were tried on similar charges after being sued by the army will hear the court’s verdict on Wednesday. The charges involve a report the three issued alleging torture by security forces inThailand’s southern provinces, where a Muslim insurgency has lasted more than a decade. They face the prospect of five years behind bars and a fine of USD$4,800.
Amnesty International called for Thai authorities to drop the charges and instead investigate the serious allegations the activists’ report raised. “It is the state’s duty to protect human rights activists, not to shield security forces from accountability,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty in a press release.
The report issued in February described acts of torture in the southern provinces as systematic and said that in spite of complaints and campaigns by victims and rights organizations, “the state has not taken any significant action to prevent and address torture.”
Government spokesman Winthai Suvaree said in response to their report that there was no evidence to back allegations of torture.