6 June 2024

The House of Representatives, today (Thursday), passed the long-awaited four draft bills against torture and enforced disappearance by state officials, in its first reading with 368 votes for, one vote against and one abstention.

The four draft bills were separately proposed by the cabinet, by Palang Pracharat MP for Bangkok Sira Jenjaka, by former party-list MP Wan Muhamad Noor Matha of the Prachachart party and by Democrat party-list MP Suthas Ngernmuen.

The government-initiated draft will be the main legislation to be scrutinised by a 25-member House scrutiny committee appointed today by the House. Among the members are human rights advocate Somchai Homlaor, nominated by the Democrat party, former national human rights commissioner Angkhana Nilapaichit, nominated by the Seri Ruam Thai party, and anti-government activist Sombat Boonngarmanong and former Pheu Thai MP Dr. Tosaporn Serirak, nominated by Pheu Thai party.

The House committee was given seven days to scrutinise the four bills.

The essence of the government’s draft is in Section 5, which stipulates that a state official who deliberately inflicts pain or suffering, physically or mentally, in order to extract a confession or information from a suspect or for the purpose of extortion, is considered to be committing an act of torture and is liable to a maximum prison term of 25 years and a fine of up to 500,000 baht.

If the suspect dies in course of the torture, the perpetrator is liable to life imprisonment or 30 years in prison and a fine of up to one million baht.

Similar penalties are applied to state officials who commit enforced disappearance.

Collaborators or supporters of the crime are liable to similar penalties, while superiors of the perpetrators, who are aware of the crime but do not stop the crime, will be liable to half of these penalties.

Under the bill, a committee responsible for preventing and suppressing torture and enforced disappearance will be set up. A case of torture or enforced disappearance is to be considered a special case, to come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Special Investigation under the Justice Ministry, not the Royal Thai Police.

The torture and enforced disappearance bills were given fast-track treatment by the House after public outrage over the release, on social media, of a video clip showing a group of policemen in Nakhon Sawan province using plastic bags to cover the head of a drug suspect during the course of their investigation. The suspect died on the spot.

At least seven police officers, including the former superintendent, Thitisan Utthanaphon, were later dismissed from the service and detained for interrogation.