Rights groups slam army DNA tests for soldiers

Rights groups slam army DNA tests for soldiers

Human rights advocacy groups have urged the army to stop collecting DNA samples during the military draft process in the four restive southern provinces.

The collection of samples from drafted soldiers is a violation of people's rights and the army must end this "double standard practice", said Anchana Heemmina, a human rights lawyer who works in the deep-southern provinces.

Ms Anchana was referring to an army pilot project to gather DNA samples from drafted and enlisted soldiers.

"The collected DNA in the military draft process is unfair treatment. DNA has been used against suspects in national security cases," said Ms Anchana, who is founder of the Hearty Support Group, a civic group assisting families of those killed in the southern violence.

Collecting DNA samples is not a normal part of the military draft. The army initiated the practice last year by starting pilot projects in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and four districts in Songkhla province -- Chana, Thepha, Saba Yoi and Na Thawi. These areas have been mired in insurgency violence for 15 years.

The project is part of a government move to create a database of people in the restive southern provinces, especially forensic evidence that can be used to investigate insurgency cases.

While the army maintains the DNA collections are voluntary, the practice continues to draw criticism from rights groups.

Director of the Deep South Watch Centre at Prince of Songkla University, Srisomphop Jitpiromsri, said the military owed the public an explanation as to why they are carrying out DNA testing during the draft. Unclear is how long the records will be kept and who will have access to them. The army must listen to warnings from rights groups, he said, as it starts the upcoming military draft this Thursday.

This year DNA collecting will continue for the military drafting process. Col Pramote Prom-in, a spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4 Forward Command, told the Bangkok Post that DNA collecting is necessary, but without elaborating.

"It is voluntary process," he said.


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