Sunday, 25 September 2016

Niece of army torture to death indicted for defaming Thai army

Update: 17 March 2017

Niece of an army conscript, who was tortured to death during military training in 2011, has been indicted under the controversial Computer Crime Act after  revealing the circumstance of her uncle’s death in military camps.

Naritsarawan Kaewnopparat. Image via isranews

On 16 March 2017, Naritsarawan Kaewnopparat submitted a letter to the Office of the Attorney-General at the Government Complex in Bangkok to call for justice. She submitted the letter after Pol Maj Gen Ronnasin Phusara, Interim Commander of the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Centre, concluded that she should be charged under the Computer Crime Act and the law on criminal defamation for publishing on the internet details about the death of her late uncle.

On 24 January 2017, Director -Genera of the 9th region Public Prosecutor's Office and prosecutors of Narathiwat Province dropped accusations under the Computer Crime Act and Criminal Defamation against Naritsarawan for exposing the torture by military.

On 22 September 2016, the public prosecutor, Mr. Rati Cholamyai indicted Naritsarawan Keawnopparat, the niece of Wichian Puaksom who died in Narathiwat Ratchanakarin army camp five years ago. The investigation of the case against her had been concluded and the case would be brought to the Court. The inquiry official investigating the case has proposed two charges against her including (1) libel crime and (2) import to a computer system of forged computer data, either in whole or in part, knowing that it was false computer data. The case is being handled by the public prosecutor of Narathiwat, though the date on which the case shall be indicted is yet to be officially announced.

Ms. Narissarawan Kaewnopparat is a government employee of the Bureau of Children and Youth, Department of Children and Youth, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. The case against her was reported by Capt Bhuri Perksophon to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on 18 December 2015. The Narathiwat Provincial Court had issued an arrest warrant against her as requested by the inquiry official claiming it was feared that she would flee since she had failed to meet the inquiry official as summoned.

On 17 August 2016, Narissarawan submitted a letter of petition to the Office of Attorney General asking for the public prosecutor to return the investigation report to the inquiry official to conduct more investigation prior to the prosecution since she had never received the summonses before the arrest warrant had been issued against her.

Naritsarawan handed a letter to the Office of Attorney General call for justice for her late uncle : image via Prachatai

On 26 July 2016, police arrested Naritsarawan at her office at the Ministry of Human Security and Social Development in Bangkok. She was taken to the Muang Narathiwat police station and questioned about her Facebook page.  She was later released on bail after she allowed her position as a worker under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to be used as a guarantee.   

The complaint against Naritsarawan

The complaint against Naritsarawan was brought by an army captain who had been commanding officer of the unit found responsible for Wichian’s death.

Phuri Phueksophon, a Military Major in the 4th Army Region — the unit responsible for the torture of Naritsarawan’s uncle — accused her of violating the Computer Crime Act and defaming him by exposing the torture.
At the Attorney General Office, Naritsarawan pointed out that Phuri was promoted from the rank of Sub Lieutenant tthe  o the rank of Major despite being one of the 10 soldiers accused of the torture that led to the death of Wichian. The other 9 soldiers accused of torture were suspended from their posts, Phuri was promoted.  
Background of Pvt.Wichain Puaksom

Ordained as a Buddhist since young, Pvt. Wichian Puaksom had completed his Buddhist Study Bachelor degree in religions from Maha Chulalonkorn Buddhist University with honors and completed his master degree from Faculty of Social Work, Thammasat University with honers as well. After disrobing and without informing his family, he applied for a post with the military.His family was contacted and asked to meet him at the hospital only in his last minutes. Pvt. Wichian Puksom is a youngest son of the family. He is youngest brother to Ms Narisarawan’s mother. Since his decease , his niece, Ms Narisarawan was stil under graduate student, then 20 years old has been acting on behalf of his family to demand justice from various agencies. It has attracted a lot of attention from public and media.

Wichian Puaksom, seen here as a student at Thammasat University in 2010

Wichean died on 5 June 2011 in Narathiwat Province at the age of 26 while he was serving in the military. The forensic report of Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Hospital concluded that he suffered from acute kidney failure resulting from severe physical injuries.
An investigation by the 4th Army Region found that Wichian was severely tortured by other soldiers and his superiors after he was accused of running away from military training.

The Army report said that on 1 June 2011, a number of soldiers, Sub Lt Om Malaihom ordered at least nine soldiers to strip s Wichian down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before repeatedly kicking him with military boots and beating him for several hours.

The report added that the soldiers applied salt to the injuries of the torture victim to increase the pain and wrapped his entire body with a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and reading the funeral rites, before engaging in another round of beating.

The injured officer was later sent to Cho-airong District Hospital in Narathiwat Province on 2 June 2011 and was later transferred to Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Hospital in Mueang District because his condition was too severe for a small district hospital to treat.

Sub-lieutenant Om and the other nine soldiers received military disciplinary punishment of 30 or fewer days in detention, but were never charged for murder or other serious offenses.

In May 2012, Wichean’s family filed civil charges against the Ministry of Defence, the Royal Thai Army, and the Prime Minister's Office for malfeasance, demanding about 18 million baht (about 500,000 USD) compensation from the authorities. Through constant negotiations and reconciliation, the PM’s Office agreed to give the victim’s family 7 million baht compensation which was finalized by the civil court in February 2014. However, up to now, none of the accused soldiers have been officially prosecuted for criminal offences.
WATCH: Naritsarawan disclosed the details of her uncle’s death in a TV interview

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