House urged to act on anti-torture law

House urged to act on anti-torture law

Human rights defenders, legislators and academics have called for the House of Representatives to quickly pass the draft of the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act.

The message was sent through a panel discussion on "Thailand's Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act: what can be expected from the current draft law?" held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand on Monday. The event was organised by the club, Justice for Peace Foundation, Cross-Cultural Foundation and International Commission of Jurists, and Amnesty International Thailand.

Angkhana Neelapaijit, former human rights commissioner, said she has fought for justice ever since her husband Somchai Neelapaijit, a human rights lawyer, disappeared in 2004.

"The Thai government has to show sincerity and transparency to protect all persons and to end impunity to pass this law without delay," Ms Angkhana said.

The draft aims to prevent rogue officials from torturing suspects or abducting people with critical views. It was written almost a decade ago.

Last June, the cabinet approved the Justice Ministry's draft bill and last September, the House of Representatives approved the draft on its first reading together with three other drafts presented by political parties. An ad-hoc committee was set up to review and merge the four versions of the draft law before submitting it to the House for the second and third readings within this month.

Siam University law lecturer Ekachai Chanuvati said the bill must be passed immediately because it is a chance to have an international human rights law become Thai law.

"Public officials should welcome this law because it is one that represents human dignity," he said.

Adilan Ali-ishak, a Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MP from Yala province, said that state officials should support the bill because it could protect them since they must record voice or video clips from the start of their work until the finish.

Lastly, Rangsiman Rome, an MP and deputy secretary-general of the opposition Move Forward Party, said he is confident that the draft will pass the hearing of the House but he is afraid that it will not get the required votes from senators.

"The senators are not senators by election. They do not have to be held accountable by the people," he said, adding that many of the senators are military generals.

"[This] draft is targeted at government officers and I am not sure that the senators are related to or committed the [human rights] crimes that we are trying to fight against," he said.

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