PM denies knowledge of torture

PM denies knowledge of torture

Thailand 'didn't do it, wasn't involved'

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says the Thai government knew nothing about what the US did to terror suspects in Thailand or where, insisting Thailand is not responsible.   

The US report released last week claimed the CIA ran a safe house it called Detention Site Green in "Country [redacted]", which it did not name. Both references refer to Thailand, where the first CIA waterboarding programme subjected al-Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah (top) and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri to "harsh interrogation" in mid-2002.

Gen Prayut was responding to questions related to a report by several members of a US Senate committee that a former CIA official had allegedly admitted he questioned and tortured al-Qaeda members at the Ramasun military camp in Udon Thani province.

Speaking after chairing a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) Thursday, Gen Prayut told reporters that when suspected terrorists were in Thai custody, the authorities had to turn them over to US officials. After that, US authorities were responsible for their actions, not Thailand, he said.

The prime minister said the US never let Thailand know about what it did to the suspects or where they were held.

"The US did not tell us anything. We didn't know where it was hidden," Gen Prayut said, referring to the secret prison. "We didn't have to take responsibility because they were already handed over."

Gen Prayut had previously denied that Thailand hosted clandestine torture facilities for the US.

Returning from South Korea last Friday, Gen Prayut acknowledged the release of the explosive Senate report, which listed Thailand among the countries used by the CIA for the detention and torture of suspected terrorists.

ฺฺBut he said the claims made within the public portion of the massive report were false, and the Foreign Ministry would explain that Thailand was not involved in the CIA's actions.

The Dec 10 report delivered a damning indictment of CIA practices, accusing the spy agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners beyond legal limits. 

According to the report, Abu Zubaydah who was the first high-profile al-Qaeda terror suspect captured after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, was brought to Thailand. It said much of the torture took place here at a secret facility widely speculated to be the former US air base in Udon Thani.

Psychologist and former US Air Force officer James Mitchell is identified as a CIA contractor hired to interrogate suspects, including in Thailand, and he allegedly used torture practices.

Mr Mitchell reportedly admitted to international media that he personally waterboarded al-Qaeda suspects, including Abu Zubaydah in Thailand.

"Do not pay attention to it. It was the US's political affair. I see no use in reporting the matter because Thailand did not do it and was not involved," Gen Prayut said.

Gen Prayut also said that security agencies, the Interior Ministry and the Royal Thai Police and the National Council for Peace and Order will work together to ensure security during the New Year festival.

Gen Prayut said he did not think acts of terrorism would come from outside.

If any, these could be perpetrated by those who wanted to get the country into trouble, he said.

Speaking after the NSC meeting, NSC secretary-general Anusit Khunakorn said Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is in charge of national security, has instructed security agencies to step up security measures during New Year and monitor any suspicious movements following the deadly cafe hostage crisis in Sydney, Australia.

Martial law will remain in place, Mr Anusit added. He said the meeting worked out strategies for national security from next year until 2021.

Mr Anusit said the prime minister stressed that national security plans must be linked with economic and social development.

Security agencies, therefore, will have to revamp their structures and adjust to new challenges, the NSC chief added.

Mr Anusit said superpower countries are currently trying to expand their influence in several regions, and Thailand must maintain a balance when handling security cooperation with them.

Thailand and other Asean countries are trying to build up regional strength in a bid to bargain with other countries and boost regional security, economic, social and cultural cooperation, he said.

Mr Anusit said Gen Prayut also stressed the importance of protecting the monarchy and solving the southern violence.

The NSC drew up measures to protect the country's maritime security and interests, estimated to be worth as much as 20 trillion baht, Mr Anusit said.

He has said previously maritime areas lacked proper management because attention had been focused largely on land. The cabinet has now approved a strategic framework on the matter.

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