3 panels to oversee rights protection

3 panels to oversee rights protection

The Justice Ministry will appoint three panels to deal with enforced disappearances and torture, according to Rights and Liberties Protection Department chief Pitikan Sithidej.

The three sub-committees will be delegated essential roles intended to tackle these human rights violations.

The first panel, to headed by the Department of Special Investigation chief, will follow up on and examine cases of enforced disappearances and torture.

The second sub-committee will offer remedial measures for victims of torture and those affected by enforced disappearances. The panel will be chaired by Ms Pitikan.

The third panel, to be headed by Narong Jaiharn, a law specialist at Thammasat University, is to prevent disappearances and torture, Ms Pitikan said.

She said the order to establish the panels was issued by the Justice Ministry.

Ms Pitikan was speaking after attending a meeting to streamline the way complaints about enforced disappearances and torture are dealt with. The session was chaired by Justice Minister ACM Prajin Juntong.

The meeting was told that the United Nations has listed 82 people as having gone missing in Thailand after various political mass gatherings since the Black May bloodshed in 1992.

Thailand is a signatory of conventions banning torture and on the protection of citizens against enforced disappearances.

In 2011, the government sponsored a bill to outlaw disappearances and torture, which is being deliberated by the National Legislative Assembly.

Discussed at the meeting were two high-profile disappearance cases. They were human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, who went missing in 2004 and of Karen rights activist Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen, who was last seen on April 17, 2014, in the custody of state officials.

Ms Pitikan said if and when the draft bill is enacted, people will receive better legal protection against human rights infringements.

She also said the UN's list of 82 missing people needs updating as four have already been found. They were among those reported missing after the Black May uprising against Gen Suchinda Kraprayoon -- the then army chief and a key leader of the National Peace Keeping Council-engineered coup d'etat -- having been chosen by parliament to become the country's 19th prime minister.

Ms Pitikan said two of the four have died, while another is currently serving a prison term.

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