UPDATE (Thailand): Rights commissioner tells court that no evidence victims of police killings were insurgents


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-081-2007
ISSUES: Extrajudicial killings, Impunity,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information on the post-mortem inquest into the killing of 19 young men by the police in southern Thailand during 2004 (UP-075-2007). At the end of May, a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Thailand told the court investigating the killings that the victims were unarmed and there was no evidence that they were insurgents, as claimed by the police. The inquest will continue on 21 September 2007.

As reported in our previous update, on 28 April 2004, 19 young men were killed by heavily-armed police at a checkpoint near Sabayoi municipality market. The police justified the killing as self-defence and alleged that the young men were insurgents.

On 29 and 30 May 2007, Naiyana Suphapueng, a commissioner from the NHRC testified to the court conducting the inquest into the killings, in Songkhla, that the NHRC had conducted a fact-finding mission into the killings and had concluded that there was no evidence supporting the police allegations that the victims possessed heavy weapons and had attacked the police checkpoint, as no weapons were found on the dead bodies. Furthermore, most of the bullet wounds of the victims were in their backs, which is unlikely to happen in a crossfire situation. Also, no damage was found to have occurred at the police checkpoint itself.

The NHRC also found that the police operations after the killings were deficient. They did not handle the dead bodies and autopsies properly. The bodies were not kept in hospital but left exposed in an open field under heavy rain; relatives of the victims were also not allowed to observe the autopsies.

The NHRC report on the incident raised questions about the actions of the state officers. The commission has urged that if the officers are found to have used excessive force then they should be prosecuted; however, it did not make a conclusion about whether or not they had done so as this is the matter for the court to decide at the end of the inquest.

Three government officials allegedly involved in the killings, including two police officers, were scheduled to also give evidence; however, they failed to appear in court and have thus caused a delay in the inquest.  One was Arun Lamsoh, an officer who had been deputed to the police unit responsible for the killings at the time of the incident. He did not appear in court on May 29. He sent a letter that he had been transferred to Bangkok for three months for duties as assigned by his district chief. Pol. Sgt. Pravit Puapan and Pol. Sgt. Somwong Plifah also did not come to the court on May 30, the former giving the reason that he was on leave.


Government officials in Thailand typically use non-appearance in court on various pretexts as a tactic to delay proceedings and pervert the course of justice. For instance, in the case of four men accused of plotting to kill the Supreme Court president, the case was delayed for some seven years when two senior police officers persistently failed to appear in the court; after 14 years the case is not yet complete (UA-094-2007; AS-065-2007). In the case of the concocted case against 58 protestors outside the Tak Bai police station, 85 of whose colleagues were killed, most in army custody, the army and police officers called as witnesses repeatedly failed to come to court on the designated days. Finally the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. (See further: UP-178-2006; AS-143-2006; AHRC-PL-042-2006; Tak Bai Massacre homepage — http://thailand.ahrchk.net/takbai). In the current case, apparently even a junior police officer being on holiday was sufficient ground to cause its postponement for some three months.

The case is related to the inquest into the Krue Se killings, which found that three army officers were responsible for the deaths of 28 men on the same day. The public prosecutor is obliged by law to return the case to the police for further investigation but so far there has been no evidence of any action against the three officers; on the contrary, General Pallop Pinmanee, who has made no secret of running death squads for the state in the 1970s and 80s, has been reappointed to a senior position by the current military junta (see further: UP-069-2007; UP-028-2007; AHRC-OL-008-2007; UA-398-2006)

See also the inquest into the Tak Bai killings: UP-051-2007.

There has been no let up in wanton killings of young men by the security forces in southern Thailand since 2004. After the introduction of emergency regulations in the south in 2005 the situation worsened considerably, and again since the military takeover of Thailand in September 2006. No killers have been brought to justice. Recent cases documented by the AHRC include: 
UA-174-2007: No action against army killers of two young men
AS-078-2007: Murder is not self defence
UA-111-2007: Military personnel kill 15-year-old boy, shoot-up school


The AHRC urges all human rights defenders and concerned persons in Thailand to please attend the next hearing into this inquest. The details are as follows:

Next hearing: 21 September 2007, 9am – 4pm
Place: Songkhla Provincial Court, Platha Road, Boyang Subdistrict, A. Muang, Songkhla 
Case No.: Black No. Chor. 30/2547
Under: Criminal Procedure Code Section 150

Thank you

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-081-2007
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Impunity,