- Civilian prison inside a military barrack
On 11 September 2015, the Thai Minister of Justice, Gen. Paiboon Koomchaya, issued the Ministry of Justice’s Order no. 314/2015 (“the MoJ Order No. 314/2015) to set up the Nakhon Chaisri temporary remand facility (“the Facility”) in the compound of the Infantry Battalion, the 11th Military Circle base in Bangkok, claiming “for the sake of maintenance of security and to accommodate the deprivation of liberty and the treatment of alleged offenders in cases concerning national security and other related cases, whereas the alleged offenders give rise to special circumstances and they cannot be held in custody together with other detainees.” The first batch of non-military detainees here included two alleged offenders in the Erawan Shrine Bombing case.
- Allegations of torture, delayed trial proceedings in military court
On 14 September 2015, Mr. Adem Karadag and Mr. Yusufu Mierili were the first two civilians to be held in pre-trial custody of military officials in a military barrack during police investigation. The Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order no. 3/2015 grants the military officials power to detain a person for up to seven days without charge before the police investigation. In practice, the setup of said remand facility to detain non-military personnel is a means to extend the detaining period of civilians under military authority and under the umbrella of the formalised justice system.
During the custody of the two alleged offenders, their lawyers had experienced some problem concerning visiting their clients at the Facility in the beginning. Only lawyers who had a formal deed of appointment with the client were allowed to have such visit, despite the fact that such appointment can only be done when a lawyer meets the client and has him/her sign the deed. When the lawyers were finally allowed to visit the clients after having all paperworks finished, they were not granted a private meeting but the constant presence of military officers in the meeting room, contrast to the lawyer-client privilege principle. Later on 16 February 2016, the trial day, the lawyer of Mr. Adem told the press that previously his client had allegedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment while being held for investigation. The Deputy National Police Chief, Pol Gen Sriwara Ransibrah-manakul, however, denied such allegation, claiming that no torture had been committed during the investigation. He further threatened to take legal action against the lawyer who had reported the allegation of torture against his client.
In addition, an interpreter of the Erawan Shrine Bombing case was arrested on 1 June 2016 for allegedly possessing narcotic drug, after he had just worked as the interpreter in a court hearing at the Bangkok Military Court that morning. Until now, the two now defendants have been remanded at the Facility in the military barrack for more than 14 months. The examination of the first witness is pending due to the lack of interpreters.
- One year of silence: deaths in custody of lese majeste alleged offenders; Mor Yong and Pol Maj Prakrom
On 23 October 2015, Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapa, one of three alleged offenders in a lese majeste case, was found dead in a cell at the Facility. According to the Corrections Department’s statement, he hung himself during the solitary confinement in a dark windowless cell, where no one could see inside without opening the door. It also stated that his body had been transferred for an autopsy at the Office of Police Forensic Science, the Police General Hospital, while an inquiry committee has been set up to investigate the case.
On 9 November 2015, another Corrections Department’s statement revealed that Mr. Suriyan Sucharitpolwong, also known as “Mor Yong”, had died of blood circulation failure as a result of bloodstream infection on 7 November 2015. Both cases were deaths in custody and the authorities were obliged to carry out an autopsy and a post mortem inquest in compliance with Section 150 of the Thai Criminal Procedure Code.
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) notes that the information of the two deaths is one-sidedly provided by the authorities, which signals a lack of transparency and impartial examination. Reportedly, no relatives were included in the autopsy process, while no funerals were carried out in accordance with religious customs, which go unusually against the law and traditionally social practice. November 2016 marks one year of their deaths in custody, when the causes of their deaths remain unclear.
- Justice delayed is justice denied: Administrative Court’s 11-Month decision to examine motion to close the facility
On 9 December 2015, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has filed the case against the Minister of Justice to the Administrative Court to revoke the MoJ’s Order no. 314/2015, which establishes a remand facility in the military barrack and designates the territory of the Nakhon Chaisri temporary remand facility.
TLHR argued that the content of such order was too vague and not comprehensive to the general public, which breaches the Administrative Procedure Act. In addition, TLHR sees that the Facility was set up based on political reasons, thus the Order was not issued in good faith and was against the principle of equality under the Constitution. The issuance of such Order reflects that the Justice Minister’s exercise of discretionary power is disproportionate. Therefore, TLHR submitted to the Administrative Court to review the state’s exercise of power on such order.
Nevertheless, the Administrative Court has just accepted to review the case on 3 November 2016. The Court shall proceed to investigate the Justice Minister (defendant)’s exercise of power and wait for the defendant’s statements. Note that it took the Court 11 months to accept the case, indicating a delay in Thai judicial review of state officials’ acts and justice system.
- Delayed access to statistics of Detainees and correctional Officials AT the Facility
On 8 March 2016, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights requested for statistics of detainees and correctional officers at the Nakhon Chaisri temporary remand facility from the Bangkok Remand Prison, to which the Facility affiliates. The Bangkok Remand Prison denied our request, claiming that “such information may affect the national security and is personal information according to the Government Information Act B.E. 2540 (1997).”
Subsequently, TLHR appealed to the Committee of Government Information, citing that the requested information infers to statistical information, not personal one. TLHR sees that, due to the Facility’s lack of transparency, the authorities denying access to such generic information will only harbor public fear. In contrast, revealing the information offers civilians a transparent judicial review of administrative discretion, and guarantees the detainees’ welfare and rights as well as the absence of incommunicado detention. Thus, the general public and the government itself would benefit more from the disclosure of such information.
Later on 29 July 2016, the Committee of Government Information ordered the Bangkok Remand Prison to reveal the requested information: the number of detainees, types of offences against them, and the number of correctional officers in charge of the Facility. The Bangkok Remand Prison finally provided such information to TLHR after over four months of requested access to information that should be made available to the public.
- How many civilians have been detained at the Facility inside the 11th Military Circle base?
- According to information provided by the Bangkok Remand Prison upon the order of the Committee of Government Information, during 14 September 2015 and 8 March 2016;
- Detainees and former detainees: 47 persons
- Civilians being incarcerated or formerly incarcerated: 45 persons
- Government officials being incarcerated or formerly incarcerated: 2 persons
- Correctional officers at the Nakhon Chaisri temporary remand facility: 6 persons
- Military officials appointed as special correctional officers: 80 persons
- Charges of all detainees include;
- unlawful possession of unlicensed explosive devices and the use of unlicensed explosive devices for attempted murder;
- offences under the Narcotics Act;
- accomplice in defaming, insulting or threatening the King, the Queen, the Heir-Apparent or the Regent and imparting false information to the Internet;
- robbery and malfeasance in office;
- robbery and attempted murder and;
- violation of the Head of the NCPO Order that bans political gatherings of five persons of more, possession of firearm and ammunition, carrying weapons in public without license.
- TLHR’s findings on the statistics of detainees and correctional officers AT the facility
- According to the statistics, only detainees who are alleged offenders or defendants in criminal cases are or have been incarcerated at the Nakhon Chaisri temporary remand facility, located inside the 11th Military Circle base. Therefore, the information does not include persons who had been held inside the base or at other locations under the Martial Law, the Head of the NCPO Orders no. 3/2015 or no. 13/2016, which allow the military personnel to detain individuals in military custody for up to seven days without charge.
- The disproportionate ratio of 80 military officials appointed as special correctional officers to only six professional correctional officers suggests that not only the Facility is located in a military barrack, it is also under the control of the military authority.
- According to TLHR’s documentation, at least 16 civilians were detained in four cases including the Erawan Shrine Bombing, the lèse majesté (Article 112 of the Criminal Code) case or Mor Yong Case, the attempted attack on the “Bike for Dad” event case and the Wang Burapha gun robbery case. Given so, more civilians might be or have been detained in cases related to national security charges without any public awareness.
- Non-military individuals being detained at the Facility comprise of two categories. One is persons charged with offences under the military jurisdiction, including lèse majesté offence under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, weapon and firearm charges, and breach of the NCPO Orders and Announcements. The other is persons charged under larceny, robbery, and narcotics offences, which subject to the civilian jurisdiction, not military.
- The types of offences that detain civilians at the Facility are conventional crimes that the Department of Corrections are authorized to incarcerate them in a regular correctional facility, same as the majority of detainees under the same charges. The use of the Facility suggests that the categorization of offences related to national security falls under the military discretion without the principle of authority.
One year and two months of the Nakhon Chaisri temporary remand facility’s operation has raised many questions concerning the two civilian deaths in custody from the total number of 47 detainees, complicated lawyer-client visit procedure, and allegations of torture against the detainees. However, without the Facility, the military officials still have bestowed power to detain civilians in military custody for up to seven days. The unsettling circumstances leave us to question the practice of detaining civilians in military barrack, with 80 appointed military correctional officers under the name of “justice system.”