BANGKOK – A junta spokesperson has asked the international watchdog Human Rights Watch to look beyond human rights violations in Thailand and take stock of the junta’s overarching mission instead.
“Human Rights Watch should consider other issues, too,” said the spokesman, Maj.Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd. “They shouldn’t only look at the angle of human rights, otherwise they will not understand the world, they will not understand society. Looking at only one angle like that is idealistic. They should understand that we do everything to protect Thai people and our nation. If they understand this picture, they will understand the situation.”
Maj.Gen. Sansern was responding to HRW's demand that the junta investigate a claim that four men were tortured in military custody earlier this month. The four men said they were slapped, punched, kicked, and electrocuted by military officers who forced them to confess to participating in an alleged terror network.
The junta has repeatedly denied any use of torture and threatened to take legal action against those who spread the allegation.
"Everyone, including the chief of police and even the Prime Minister, answered in the same way that there was never any torture or beating of suspects," Maj.Gen. Sansern said yesterday. "The officers have clear evidence. There is no need to do such a thing. Soldiers and police don’t think it would help anything to do that. However, we are willing to investigate the issue."
Maj.Gen. Sansern also dismissed lawyer and anti-coup activist Arnon Nampha's plan to contact the United Nations’s human rights division to investigate the torture claim.
"Drawing the UN to get involved will not have any benefit. Please don't even try to do that, because this is an issue of our country. The UN doesn't know anything," Maj.Gen. Sansern told reporters, adding that the government has not been contacted by the UN about the incident so far.
The four men who were allegedly torutured were arrested in connection with the grenade attack at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on 7 March, which caused minor damages to the parking lot but did not injure anyone. Police say an anti-junta "terrorist network" was behind the attack and reportedly plotted to plant bombs at five targets around Bangkok in order to draw a UN intervention.
At least 17 arrest warrants have been issued in relation to the alleged terror plot. All of the arrested suspects have been detained in army camps for up to a week, without access to lawyers, before being transferred to police. Under martial law, security officers can detain individuals without charges for up to seven days.
On 19 March, the New York-based HRW released a statement calling for a "prompt and impartial" investigation into the torture claim.
"These serious allegations of torture in military detention are further cause for alarm about ongoing rights abuses under martial law in Thailand," said Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director. "Only a prompt and impartial investigation that results in holding those responsible to account can resolve this matter."
HRW also urged the junta to end secret military detentions and repeal the martial law. The Thai junta has vehemently defended the use of the martial law as a means to maintain peace and order.
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