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Lahu boy Chaiyaphom Pasae Tortured and Murdered by the Thai Army.
Chaiyaphom Pasae and friend are stopped at a army checkpoint at a junction near Chiang Dao. What appears to be a minor search goes bad. At first Chiyaphom is helping the police look under the hood of his car in a totally relaxed fashion, no concern is apparent in his stance. His friend stands nearby. Then the pictures stop and the next photo we have is of his friend and army officers back at the car about two hours later. His friend has his shirt off and his short pants are covered in dirt on the front and the back and there look to be markings on his chest. But Chaiyaphom is much less lucky. His friend appears very somber and has one arm forced behind his back by an army officer. What ever has happened to Chiayaphom, his friend is well aware of it at this point.
And what did happen to Chaiyaphom?
The pictures of what happened to Chaiyaphom are not consistent with how his body is lying on the ground. The army said he ran and was shot. Maybe he ran, but only after he was tortured.
Culture of impunity at root of summary killing of Lahu activist
Submitted by editor2 on Wed, 22/03/2017 - 14:50
Col Winthai Suvaree, spokesperson of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said the act of killing was necessary, backing up a police statement that the soldier who shot Chaiyapoom acted in self-defence after 2,800 methamphetamine pills were allegedly found hidden in a car Chaiyapoom was riding in. Commenting on the incident, Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, said “abusive officials have long used anti-drug operations to cover their attacks on activists who exposed official wrongdoing or defended minority rights. Ethnic minorities in Thailand will never have full equality so long as those acting on their behalf face grave risks every day and killings such as this are not investigated properly.”
Chaiyapoom Pasae, a 17-year-old member of the Lahu ethnic minority Doubts After the killing, authorities quickly defended the soldier who shot Chaiyapoom. The army report alleges that Chaiyapoom tried to break away from custody after soldiers arrested him and Pongsanai Saengtala, 19, the driver of the car in which the authorities allegedly found 2,800 methamphetamine pills. After the young activist hid in a nearby bush and attempted to throw a grenade at the soldiers who followed him, one of the soldiers shot him dead with a single shot in self defence, the NCPO spokesperson told the press.
Currently Pongsanai, who directly witnessed the incident, is detained at Chiang Mai Prison. The court demanded two million baht as surety for the bail request from his family, who did not have enough money. But in an interview that Thai PBS broadcasted on 21 March 2017, an anonymous source said several other civilians saw the incident, adding that three gunshots were heard before Chaiyapoom was killed. “Many villagers saw that he was dragged out of the car and beaten. [A soldier] put a foot on his face and fired two shots to intimidate him. When [Chaiyapoom] broke free from the beating and ran, the soldier shot him. They did not allow the villagers to approach the site,” the Thai PBS quoted the anonymous witness as saying.
Chainarong Sretthachau, an academic from Maha Sarakham University, wrote on his Facebook account that Chaiyapoom was killed at a permanent checkpoint that drug traffickers would probably avoid. It would not make much sense for Chaiyapoom and Pongsanai to choose to take that route if they were trafficking drugs.
A police officer inspecting the body of Chaiyapoom after he was killed (Photo from TNN News)
Justice yet to be answered
Sila Jahae, the President of the Lahu Association who has been active in fighting for justice for the Lahu and other hill minorities. He himself suffered from torture and arbitrary detention in the hands of state authorities in 2003 Although it has been more than a decade since the war on drug was scrapped, not a single police officer has been prosecuted or arrested. Crimes conducted by state officials against Lahu and other ethnic minorities during and after the war on drugs show how deeply rooted the culture of impunity in Thai society is. Part of the reason is the lack of any law which could criminalises torture and enforced disappearance. In fact, some officers who committed these crimes have been promoted while civilians who spoke out were punished. In May 2016, the military in Deep Southern Thailand filed complaints against three human rights defenders. They were accused of defaming the military for publishing a report that year on the torture of ethnic Muslim Malays in the Deep South in 2014 and 2015. The report described at least 18 cases of alleged torture and ill-treatment since 22 May 2014, when Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha staged a coup d’état. In 2015 alone, there were 15 recorded cases, on top of a total of 17 recorded in 2014. This was a dramatic rise compared to previous years which saw seven cases in 2013, two in 2011, and three in 2010 (no information is available for 2012). On 7 March 2017, the military, however, dropped charges against the three and stated that a joint committee would be set up to verify accusations of human rights violations in the region and to come up with mechanisms and frameworks to prevent abuses of human rights. After years of campaigning and lobbying by human rights groups, on 28 February 2017 the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that it had been informed that the junta-appointed lawmakers had dropped a bill to criminalise torture and enforced disappearance. The now suspended bill was the first law to recognise and criminalise torture and enforced disappearance by the Thai authorities even in cases where the body of the victim is missing. The Justice Ministry submitted the bill to the NLA in 2016, after Thailand ratified the UN convention against torture in 2007 and signed the convention against enforced disappearance in 2012. According to an Amnesty International statement in 2016, the Thai junta has allowed a “culture of torture” to flourish since the 2014 coup d’état, as many political dissidents detained by the authorities claimed that they suffered from beatings, smothering with plastic bags, waterboarding and being electrocuted. The recent suspension of the bill criminalizing torture and enforced disappearance allows the authorities to continue to get away with their crimes, and it is unlikely that the death of the promising Lahu activist will be the last.
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