Foreign Ministry Says Govt Must Verify Torture Report

BANGKOK — The Foreign Ministry on Thursday defended the military government’s blocking of an Amnesty International discussion of alleged torture under the military government since the coup by casting doubt on its accuracy.

One day after officers shut down a panel discussion of an Amnesty report with a novel method – threatening to arrest foreign speakers for not having work permits – the ministry said in a statement today the government would welcome the information if it could verify it.

“The Royal Thai Government welcomes all information on this matter, as it would help the work of the government in the area of human rights and in ensuring transparency, fairness and justice through our judicial process,” it read. “However, the information contained in the report is yet to be verified, especially for cases in which the alleged victims remain anonymous.”

Read: Security Forces Muzzle Torture Discussion With Arrest Threats

It said the “relevant authorities” were examining the accuracy of the report.

The Amnesty report detailed 74 cases of torture between 2014 and 2015 inflicted on migrants, insurgents, political opponents and more. It alleged in graphic detail abuses including waterboarding, electric shock and more.

Laurent Meillan, acting regional rep for the UN Human Rights Office in Southeast Asia and one of the panelists threatened into not speaking was unconvinced. He said blocking the panel Wednesday at the Four Wings Hotel raised doubts about the ability of international organisations to stage public events on issues that the government views as controversial or sensitive.

“Every year, several public reports are released in Thailand by international organizations, which involve the participation of non-resident international experts,” Meillan said.

“I think what happened was very unfortunate, as the clarification issued by [the ministry] today shows the government made a commitment to tackle the question of torture,” Meillan said.

Amnesty International did not reply to inquires Thursday on how it would go about further disseminating its report.

Meillan said his office acknowledges the state has taken a number of concrete steps, such as banning torture and enforced disappearance, which was constructive and helped the government better respond to the problem.

He said it has also turned up the heat on those who report it.

“Since the [2014] coup, we have however observed a pattern of harassment against human rights defenders reporting torture cases. … “Documenting human rights abuses is not a crime,” he said.

He said governments are obligated “to promptly and carefully investigate these serious human rights allegations instead of prosecuting those who speak out for the victims.”

The Foreign Ministry said that any victim of torture can step forward and seek compensation under a 2001 victim compensation law.

“Moreover, the Ministry of Justice is currently exploring the possibility of setting up the system of remedy with a holistic approach that covers physical and psychological rehabilitation, restitution, satisfaction and guarantee of non-repetition,” the statement read.

Update: An image originally included with this story with the permission of its creator was removed at their request.