Torture, disappearance bills pass MPs of all banners praise legislation

Four long-awaited bills on torture and forced disappearances sailed through the House of Representatives yesterday.

A total of 368 MPs voted in favour of the bills with one abstention.

The draft laws, long sought by their advocates, were sponsored by the cabinet, Bangkok MP Sira Jenjakha, former list-MP of the Prachachat Party Wan Muhammad Nor Matha, and Democrat list-MP Suthas Ngernmuen.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin presented the cabinet-sponsored version, saying the law was needed to stamp out torture and forced disappearances by state officials, which were serious human rights violations.

He said the 34-section bill included penalties for offenders and rehabilitation for victims of such abuse and maltreatment and was in compliance with international treaties on torture and forced disappearances.

According to Mr Somsak, the bill proposed that cases involving torture and forced disappearances should be treated as special cases and fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

It also called for the cases to be tried in the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct and demanded that supervisors who were aware but failed to stop state officials from committing such abuses face punishment.

Prachachat Party MP Kamolsak Leewamoh told the House the bill would raise the bar for the country in terms of preventing human rights violations.

“As an MP for the Prachachat Party which represents the deep South where rumours about torture are rampant, I hope that we’ll have a law against torture and forced disappearances,” he said.

Mr Suthas said a court of justice would be a mechanism of scrutiny over the use of authority by state officials while an accountability system would be put in place.

He said cases of torture and forced disappearances were rampant in the country with high-profile cases including the disappearances of Somchai Neelapaijit, a Muslim lawyer and human rights activist, who disappeared in 2004, and Karen activist Porlajee “Billie” Rakchongcharoen, who vanished while in custody in 2014.

“The problem is in part due to a lack of specific legal frameworks to deal with the issue,” he said.

Manop Khiriphuwadol, a list-MP for the Move Forward Party, spoke out in support of the bills, saying it would make state officials respect human rights when performing their jobs.

Phetdao Tohmeena, a list-MP for the Bhumjaithai Party, said the bills were “justice which have sought for three generations”.

She also shared with the MPs news reports about the disappearance of Haji Sulong Tohmeena, her grandfather who vanished in 1955 and was declared by the Pattani provincial court as a missing person.

Ms Phetdao said there were many more families who have suffered a similar fate while proposing there should be no statute of limitations for cases of forced disappearances.

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