The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is concerned that over two weeks after the police chief in Thailand made an unwarranted verbal attack on human rights defender Angkhana Neelaphaijit no action of any kind was taken against him. Furthermore, the chief has appointed another senior officer as a deputy who was responsible for obstructing the earlier investigations into her husband’s abduction by police in 2004.
As the AHRC reported in a statement on March 12, Angkhana on that day lodged a complaint in the central Administrative Court in Bangkok about the failure of the police investigation into the abduction of her husband Somchai three years earlier (AS-046-2007). In the complaint, Angkhana said that the police department had failed to comply with regulations because five police who were the accused in a criminal case connected to her husbands abduction are still working as police, even though the case is still under appeal. She asked that they be suspended from duty until the case is completed in the courts. (To see all the details on the case, visit the AHRC’s Somchai Neelaphaijit homepage: http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/somchai/)
In response, the police chief, Pol. Gen. Seripisuth Themiyavet, told Angkhana to “shut up”, and warned that she would make him into an enemy if she kept pushing about her husband’s case.
The AHRC and other groups and concerned persons in Thailand strongly defended Angkhana from the police commander’s remarks and called upon the interim prime minister to discipline him, but so far he has done nothing.
The police commander, who is new to the job, also brought the former head of the Department of Special Investigation, Pol. Gen. Sombat Amornvivat, back into the police force as his deputy. Pol. Gen. Sombat is alleged to have obstructed the investigation into Somchai’s whereabouts, and also failed to address any of the other serious human rights cases brought to the department while he was its head. In 2006 he was sacked and put into an “inactive” post at the justice ministry, but Pol. Gen. Seripisuth has now appointed him as a deputy commander. The police chief has also been accused by police of making other transfers and appointments as personal favours and because of grudges.
For more on Pol. Gen. Sombat see: UP-205-2006; http://thailand.ahrchk.net/dsi_petition
Please write to the interim prime minister to demand that disciplinary action be taken against Pol. Gen. Seripisuth and that he be instructed to publicly apologise to Angkhana. Please also call for Pol. Gen. Sombat to be removed from the police force and investigated over his alleged wrongdoing while director of the Department of Special Investigation.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
THAILAND: Police chief must apologise to Angkhana Neelaphaijit
I am very disappointed to hear that there has been no disciplinary action taken against the Acting Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police, Pol. Gen. Seripisuth Themiyavet, for his verbal attack on human rights defender Angkhana Neelaphaijit.
I am aware that on 12 March 2007, the third anniversary of her husband’s abduction by the police in Bangkok, Angkhana lodged a complaint at the central Administrative Court against the Office of the Royal Thai Police and Pol. Gen. Seripisuth in his capacity as police chief. In the complaint, she noted that all five police officers charged in connection with her husband’s disappearance are still serving as police, even though the appeals process following the trial in which one was convicted is continuing. She noted that one of the five, Pol. Lt. Col. Chadchai Liamsa-nguan, had been reappointed to his post while the trial was continuing. She asked that the police chief be ordered by the court to see that they are all suspended until the court process is fully completed.
After her complaint, Pol. Gen. Seripisuth was reported as making a public outburst in which he told Angkhana to “shut up” and warned her that she would make him into “an enemy”.
These remarks by the police chief, which were widely reported, are not only offensive and completely inappropriate but are also a direct threat to Angkhana Neelaphaijit, who was simply exercising her legal rights in the face of the massive systemic impunity enjoyed by the police in Thailand.
Although the remarks themselves may not come as a surprise, I am shocked that the interim prime minister has failed to do anything to rebuke or otherwise discipline Pol. Gen. Seripisuth. By failing to act, the interim prime minister is sending a message that it is acceptable for senior officials in Thailand to publicly intimidate human rights defenders. This can only spell a further worsening of conditions in which human rights defenders work in Thailand.
I therefore call for the interim prime minister to ensure that Pol. Gen. Seripisuth is warned over his remarks and ordered to apologise publicly to Angkhana. I am also aware that Pol. Gen. Seripisuth is being considered for the permanent post of commissioner general, and urge that this appointment be reconsidered in view of the above incident.
I also take this opportunity to voice my strong discontent at the appointing of the former Director General of the Department of Special Investigation, Pol. Gen. Sombat Amornvivat, as an Acting Deputy Commissioner General. Pol. Gen. Sombat was dismissed from his former post because of poor performance. He is alleged to have obstructed the investigation into the abduction of Somchai Neelaphaijit and also into other serious human rights cases. I fail to understand how a man with such a black professional record could now suddenly be appointed as a deputy police chief. I urge that he be dismissed from his post and instead investigated for alleged malfeasance during his time at the Ministry of Justice.
The key issue for police reform in Thailand, as can be seen in the case of these two police generals, is command responsibility. Where senior officers are not themselves investigated and held responsible for both their own actions and those of their subordinates, there can be no solution to the deep problems affecting policing in the country. Therefore I urge you to place this as the most important element in any work done on changing the police system in Thailand during your tenure.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
General Surayud Chulanont
Interim Prime Minister
c/o Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Tel: +662 280 1404/ 3000
Fax: +662 282 8631/ 280 1589/ 629 8213
PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:
1. Mr. Charnchai Likitjitta
Interim Minister of Justice
Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor Software Park Building,
Chaeng Wattana Road
Tel: +662 502 6776/ 8223
Fax: +662 502 6699/ 6734 / 6884
2. Mr. Pachara Yutidhammadamrong
Office of the Attorney General
Tel: +662 224 1563/ 222 8121-30
Fax: +662 224 0162/ 1448/ 221 0858
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Prof. Saneh Chamarik
National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
422 Phya Thai Road
Pathum Wan District
Tel: +662 2219 2980
Fax: +66 2 219 2940
4. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Att: Melinda Ching Simon
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS)
5. Mr. Santiago Corcuera
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
Attn: Tanya Smith
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: + 41 22 917 9176
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: WORKING GROUP EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS)
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (email@example.com)