Witnesses Who Will Testify Against Police in Rural Thailand Need Better Protection


The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) today issued an urgent appeal to the public in the case of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong. His body was found dead several days after his arrest in 2004.

Here’s a reprint of the appeal:

THAILAND: Call for observers in the case of torture and murder of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong; strengthening Witness Protection is needed

ISSUES: Extrajudicial killing; forced disappearance; impunity; rule of law; Human Rights Defender
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the case of Kiettisak Thitboonkrong that on 7 June 2011 at 9 am at the Criminal Court in Bangkok, the witness hearings of the defendant will continue in the case of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong, who was one of the 28 victims of the Kalasin Killings. This is the first case in which the DSI has charged police for the murders that characterised the notorious ‘war on drugs’ and its aftermath in Kalasin. Close observation would offer valuable support to the victims’ relatives and the case witnesses. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges all concerned persons to attend the court as observers, and calls on other interested persons to follow the case closely.

UPDATED INFORMATION:

On 16 July 2004, Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong, age 17, was arrested by the police in Kalasin province on charges of allegedly stealing a motorcycle. When his family heard this news, they went to the police station and attempted to talk to him. After returning multiple times, his grandmother was allowed to witness his interrogation on 22 July 2004 and told to wait for him to be bailed out (the guarantor was a municipal officer) later that day. But Mr. Kiettisak never came home. A few days later, his mangled body was found in a neighboring province.

At the urging of the relatives of Mr. Kiettisak, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in the Ministry of Justice began investigating his death in 2005, spent three years investigating his death. On 18 May 2009, six police officers were charged with premeditated murder and with concealing Mr. Kiettisak’s corpse to hide the cause of death (an image of the body can be found here, but please be warned that it is graphic). Because this case was investigated under the Special Investigation Act it was sent to the Criminal Court in Bangkok. The public prosecutor is conducting the case.

In previous appeals and updates (see UAU-031-2009) we recounted the opening of the first court trial in October 2009. The court agreed to combine Black Case No. 3252/2552 and Black Case No. 3466/2552 into Black Case No. 3252/2552, 3466/2552. Mr. Kiettisak’s father was also allowed to become a joint-litigant and his lawyers were accepted. Since then the parties in the case have presented themselves before the court for the opening of the trial, among them Mr. Chainarong Sengthong-a-ram, prosecutor in charge of the case; Mr. Kittisapt Thitboonkrong, father of Mr. Kiettisak; lawyers from the Lawyer Council of Thailand who are supporting Mr. Kiettisak’s father; six defendants who are Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Angkarn Kammoonna, Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Sutthinant Noenthing, Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Phansilp Uppanant, Pol. Lt. Col. Samphao Indee, Pol. Col. Montree Sriboonloue, Pol. Lt. Col. Sumitr Nanthasathit; and the lawyers of these defendants.

At this time, all prosecution witnesses have testified and the first two defense witnesses have testified. At the hearing at the Criminal Court on Tuesday, 7 June 2011, the remaining defense witnesses will give testimony; if this testimony cannot be completed within one day, the Court will then set additional dates. The AHRC is requesting that all persons able to do come to observe the hearing for several reasons. The AHRC has learned that court observation plays an important role in any cases in which the authorities have been charged, both in terms of supporting the victim, relatives and witnesses, and for an understanding of how the rule of law is currently functioning in Thailand. This case shows the police not as protectors, but as perpetrators of violence in which human rights are negated, especially the right to life.

In this particular case, court observation by national and international observers will also help raise the signal the concern felt by the AHRC for witnesses in this case. In particular, the AHRC would like to highlight the ongoing concerns that we have for the safety of Mrs. Pikul Phromchan, the aunt of Mr. Kiettisak and a human rights defender (HRD) who has consistently worked to secure accountability in both the case of the murder of her nephew and also the other 27 cases of murder and disappear of citizens by the police in Kalasin. Mrs. Pikul is currently under the Witness Protection Program of the DSI, but the AHRC is concerned about the quality of the professional standards of the protection she is receiving, both in terms of personal protection and the support for Mrs. Pikul to live in a province other than her home province. First, given that the defendants in this case are police, the AHRC is concerned that the state officials who are engaged in the day-to-day protection of Mrs. Pikul are also police. Second, since March, Mrs. Pikul has not received the accommodation, food, and living allowance that she is meant to receive as a person in the DSI Witness Protection Program.

The AHRC calls on the DSI to ensure that Mrs. Pikul Phromchan and all other witnesses are given full and professional protection. Particularly in cases where state officials are the perpetrators, it is essential that witnesses and involved parties are protected, so that the cycle of impunity is broken, rather than further consolidated.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the authorities listed below, urging them to ensure the continued and professional protection of Mrs. Pikul Phromchan and to continue to work for accountability in the case of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong.

The AHRC has also written letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for her intervention.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

THAILAND: Torture and Murder of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong

I am writing to express my concern over recent reports about the protection of Mrs. Pikul Phromchan, who is under the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Special Investigation. Mrs. Pikul is a human rights defender who has worked closely to secure justice and accountability in the cases of a series murders of citizens by police in Kalasin province. In particular, she has worked closely on the case of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong, her nephew, who was murders in July 2004.

The case of the murder of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong is the first one of the 28 killings in Kalasin in which the Department of Special Investigation has brought criminal charges against the six police officers allegedly responsible for his murder. The protection of Mrs. Pikul is particularly important at this time because the case will continue at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Tuesday, 7 June 2011.

I call on you to ensure that Mrs. Pikul Phromchan is given full and professional protection and to work for accountability in the case of the murder of Mr. Kiettisak Thitboonkrong. Particularly in cases where state officials are the perpetrators, it is essential that witnesses and involved parties are protected, so that the cycle of impunity is broken, rather than further consolidated.

I look forward to your prompt action.

Sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva
Prime Minister
c/o Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Bangkok 10300
THAILAND
Fax: +66 2 288 4000 ext. 4025
Tel: +66 2 288 4000
E-mail: spokesman@thaigov.go.th or abhisit@abhisit.org

2. Mr. Peeraphan Saleeratwipak
Minister of Justice
Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor Software Park Building,
Chaeng Wattana Road
Pakkred, Nonthaburi 11120
THAILAND
Fax: +66 2 502 6734 / 6884
Tel: +66 2 502 6776/ 8223
E-mail: om@moj.go.th

3. Mr.Tharit Pengdith
Director-General of
Department of Special Investigation
Department of Special Investigation office
128 Chaeng Wattana Road
Thoongsonghong, Laksi
Bangkok 10210
THAILAND
Fax: +66 2 831 9888
Tel.: +66 2 831 9888
E-mail: tharit@dsi.go.th

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

So, just send out that letter.