Report charges Thai government ignores torture allegations

AP News
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Posted: Feb 10, 2016 10:59 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — A group of human rights organizations in southern Thailand said in a report Wednesday that complaints of torture by security forces have not been addressed by authorities.

The Cross Cultural Foundation, the Patani Human Rights Network and the Duay Jai Group looked at 54 cases of alleged psychological and physical torture in Thailand's deep south, where the government has been battling a Muslim separatist insurgency since 2004. The conflict has taken about 6,000 lives.

The report describes acts of torture in the region as systematic and says that in spite of complaints and campaigns by victims, relatives and rights organizations, "the state has not taken any significant action to prevent and address torture." It said no perpetrator has ever been punished, although in a handful of cases, courts have ordered some financial restitution to victims or their families.

Methods of torture listed in the report include waterboarding, sleep deprivation, prolonged exposure to cold, beating and humiliation through being forced to strip naked.

"Such malpractice continues unabated," the report says.

Government spokesman Winthai Suvaree said there is no evidence to back allegations of torture.

Similar reports of alleged torture have been issued previously, including one earlier this month by the Muslim Attorney Center Foundation that an army spokesman dismissed as a product of the imagination.

Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, in an email that the Thai government is obligated under international law to investigate allegations of abuse such as torture and take action where appropriate, regardless of what security situation it faces.

"No one doubts that the Thai government is fighting a brutal insurgency in the deep south, but that does not justify giving a blank check to troops to commit abuses with impunity. This is not a case of rogue soldiers, but a counterinsurgency strategy that encourages abuses and then fails to provide effective redress for victims," he said.

"The Thai government should wake up to the fact that attempts to cover up misconduct of its security units and protect them from criminal responsibility have created a fertile ground for the insurgency to expand."