Soldiers sentenced to jail over death of tortured army conscript

12 years and 5 months after the crime, a military court in Pattani Province has sentenced 8 soldiers for beating to death Wichian Puaksom, a 26-year-old private.

On 23 November, the Cross Cultural Foundation reported that the military court in Pattani Province ruled that 8 soldiers were guilty of wrongdoing that caused harm to another together with other additional charges.

The court sentenced the first defendant to 3 years in prison, reduced to 2 years because he gave useful testimony.

The second and third defendants were found guilty of causing the death of another through abuse. Each were sentenced to 6 years in prison, reduced to 4 years in the case of the second defendant because of his useful testimony and to 3 years in the case of the third defendant following a guilty plea.

The remaining defendants were found guilty of abusing another, endangering their physical and mental well-being. Each was sentenced to 3 years, reduced to 2 years due to their guilty pleas.

One of those originally charged has already passed away.

The court dropped the charges of attempted murder.

In 2011, Wichian Puaksom volunteered for the army and was assigned to Narathiwat Province, in the restive Deep South of Thailand. Only a month after he enlisted, he died as a result of brutal torture committed by some 10 soldiers. 

An investigation by the 4th Army Region found that Wichian was severely tortured by his superiors and other soldiers after he was accused of running away from military training. When his family tried to pursue justice, they received a series of threats and abuse from the military who wanted them to accept monetary compensation and remain silent.

The 9 soldiers, led by Lt Phuri Perksophon, were charged in a criminal lawsuit filed by Wichian’s niece Naritsarawan Keawnopparat, who herself was accused in 2016 of defaming the Thai military and violating the Computer Crime Act by posting information in February 2016 about the torture of her late uncle.

In January 2017, the Director-General of the 9th Region Public Prosecutor’s Office dropped the charges against Naritsarawan of violating the Computer Crime Act and criminal defamation.  However, in March 2016, the police overrode the decision of the public prosecutors and continued with the prosecution. The charges were finally dropped in 2016. 

Naritsarawan was named Prachatai’s Person of the Year in 2016. Lt Phuri was promoted after the torture of Wichian to captain and then major.

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