New Thai government seeks to root out gambling, mafias and the ‘grey economy’ in a move some say is politically driven.
International human rights group Amnesty International has accused Thailand’s military government of allowing a “culture of torture” to flourish since the army seized power in a 2014 coup.
The report, Make Him Speak by Tomorrow: Torture and Other Ill-Treatment in Thailand, which was published on Wednesday, documents 74 alleged cases of torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of soldiers and the police.
The report listed beatings, suffocation by plastic bags, strangling by hand or rope, waterboarding, electric shocks to the genitals and other forms of humiliation as methods of torture.
The Junta government has rejected accusations of torture and rights violations.
“Our investigations into such allegations have shown no indication of torture, I have seen no indication of torture and the Thai people have seen no indication of torture,” General Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office, told Reuters.
A scheduled news conference in the capital Bangkok to release the report was cancelled after local authorities allegedly threatened to arrest the speakers.
Two Amnesty International staff were scheduled to speak on Wednesday at the launch of the report.
But the pressure group was told that speaking at the event would be cause for legal action, Amnesty spokesman Omar Waraich told AFP news agency.
“The authorities said to us that … if any representatives from Amnesty International spoke at the event they would be in violation of Thailand’s labour laws,” he said.
“They did not specify further,” he added.
The government did not respond to requests for comment, but the concierge of the Four Wings hotel in Bangkok, where the launch was scheduled to take place, confirmed to the DPA news agency that representatives from the Labour Ministry had made a visit to the hotel to prevent the event from happening.
The military took power in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy after months of street protests against a populist government, saying it had to step in to prevent violence and restore order.
Since the coup, dozens of government critics have been held in military detention, although the exact number has not been released.
Amnesty International said in its report that post-coup decrees had allowed authorities to detain people incommunicado.
“Empowered by laws of their own making, Thailand’s military rulers have allowed a culture of torture to flourish, where there is no accountability for the perpetrators and no justice for the victims,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
In March, the government gave soldiers powers of arrest and detention saying there were not enough police to tackle crime.
Amnesty said torture tactics were encouraged by “legal incentives”, including martial law, which the military ditched in 2015 and replaced with Article 44 of an interim constitution which gives the military similar powers to those it had during martial law, and which critics have dubbed a “dictator law”.
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Thailand’s security forces have used torture and other ill-treatment against a wide range of people including refugees, suspected drug users, members of ethnic minorities, and others, Amnesty said in the report.
In August, Thailand voted to accept a military-backed constitution, despite claims by opponents that it will entrench the military’s power and deepen divisions.
The vote paved the way for a general election promised by the military government in 2017, but the newly adopted constitution requires future governments to rule on the military’s terms.
Junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is also prime minister, has frequently defended the 2014 coup in the past, saying it was necessary to bring order back after years of on-off political unrest.