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Thai Protesters Accuse Recent Torture in Police Custody | Human rights news


Once the interrogation room doors closed behind Attasith Nussa, eight plainclothes officers quickly descended on him.

The chief officer approached the 35-year-old Thai pro-democracy protester and asked him if he had come alone to the October 29 vigil in Bangkok.

“I rode my motorcycle here alone,” Attasith reminded Al Jazeera telling his interrogations.

Attasith said the same officer, dressed in a buttoned shirt, then replied: “’Well, it’s good that you traveled alone. In this way we can say that you died in a motorcycle accident when they ask you what happened to you. ‘”

Not long after the verbal threats began, the violence began. Over the next hour, Attasith underwent a brutal torture session.

The incident left him angry and confused. Now he wants to change the police system so that this doesn’t keep happening to anyone else.

It all started when police broke a quiet vigil for Warit Somnoi, a 15-year-old protester who was mysteriously shot in the head in August 2021. Warit was in a coma for weeks and died in late October.

Police said they were trying to arrest the perpetrators in the crowd who had previously caused fires near a police station. At least six people were arrested and taken to Din Daeng Police Station.

Officers accused Attasith of being one of the men involved in a shrine fire in front of a police station in Bangkok’s Din Daeng district earlier that day. Din Daeng is an area that is now imploding with violence between a fringe of protesters and the police.

Banged, thrown around

Attasith said that as soon as he was arrested, the police started beating him.

“You can see it in the online video clip. They hit me for about three minutes before taking me to Din Daeng Police Station, “he said.

The beating lasted an hour, with officers throwing him around the interrogation room and banging his head against a bench.

When Attasith denied the allegations made against him, the police tried to extract a confession by beating him with fists and batons, asking about his alleged crimes. Several agents also took turns repeatedly choking him, causing him to almost pass out twice.

The police also tried to force him to give up his phone password so he could search for evidence of a crime on his device.

The interrogation continued in the early evening and Attasith was held in the room until early in the morning, at which point he was moved to another room with a group of other arrested protesters. It was around this time that he was finally allowed to speak to a lawyer.

Pro-democracy protesters gather during one of the frequent anti-government rallies in Bangkok in recent months [File: Mladen Antonov/AFP]

kicked, burned

Attasith isn’t the only person who reported police abuse that day.

Another protester, Weeraphap Wongsaman, told Thai media that he had a very similar experience of being beaten, kicked and burned with cigarettes.

“They burned the areas near my genitals with cigarettes and kicked my testicles,” the 18-year-old man told Prachatai, an independent online publication.

“One of the officers said: ‘You were lucky that I didn’t shoot you and I didn’t dump your body into a river because you set the shrine on fire. [in front of the police station]. ‘ They took turns beating me, punching and kicking me. “

Royal Thai Police spokesperson Krissana Pattanacharoen denied the torture allegations as unsubstantiated. He also justified the use of force by saying that the protesters started the violence.

“These are just allegations, anyone can tell that something happened in police custody without evidence,” Krissana told Al Jazeera. “And in case they have evidence, then they should go through the appropriate channels to file a complaint.”

Kristana also accused the protesters of provoking the police, setting fire to objects and throwing bottles with contaminants.

“We have repeatedly announced that they were breaking the law and asked for them to stop. But they refused to follow police requests. And since we are committed to maintaining law and order, we have had to intervene. “

Sunai Phasuk, a Thai researcher with Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera that these new allegations are a worrying shift from abrupt arrests during crowd dispersion to now possible torture, the first of its kind directed at the pro-democracy movement.

“This demonstrates not only an evident failure of the government to seriously address the outstanding issues of torture and ill-treatment in police custody, but also a lack of commitment to deliver on its commitments to fulfill its obligations to promptly investigate and prosecute these acts. important., “he said.

“With that, no wonder rogue officers think they can turn interrogation rooms in police stations into torture chambers and brutally extort confessions, calling it a quick and easy way to get their jobs done.”

Allegations of beatings also come after the death of a drug suspect, whose killing was filmed by a security camera in Thailand’s central Nakhon Sawan province.

Footage of the murder sparked tremors across Thailand, sparking heated debate over allegations of police and military brutality in the Southeast Asian country.

The police officer involved in the incident, Colonel Thitisan ‘Joe Ferrari’ Uttanapol and his accomplices are now under indictment.

Attasith, the pro-democracy protester, said he was not surprised that the beating happened to him as alleged cases are more common.

Local human rights organizations have documented at least 20 deaths in custody across Thailand since 2007 and nearly 300 torture reports since 2014 in southern Thailand, where a conflict between separatists and Thai security forces has raged for decades.

The Cross Cultural Foundation, an organization that documents torture and enforced disappearances, has also recorded at least 101 cases of enforced disappearances since 1992, while the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances said it had received reports of at least 91 cases. of enforced disappearances since 1980.

“I think in Thailand someone can walk down the street and suddenly be caught by the police. If there is something they want to know, they can just grab and hurt you first and then ask questions. “

Attasith said the experience only made him more motivated as an activist. He added that it is time for the government to finally take steps to fix a broken police system.

“They should do the right thing. I have not been threatened by them since. But I hope they will come back. I want to talk to them, I want to know why they did it. I want to teach them in the future how they should act. “



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