On Oct 18, the Ranong Provincial Court conducted a hearing on complaints filed by families of southern suspects detained in Rattanarangsan military camp for a 4-month occupational training programme. Families of 10 detainees had asked the court to order their immediate release claiming the detention is unlawful.
Before the hearing, 4 of the 10 detainees withdrew their complaints, saying they wanted to continue receiving training as the celebrations at the end of Ramadan, which they originally claimed as the reason for asking for release, had already passed, and the occupational training was due to finish on Nov 24, only about a month away.
The Provincial Prosecutor called two witnesses including Deputy Commander of Surat Thani Province Army Col Pornsak Punsawat and National Human Rights Commission's sub-committee member Pongjaras Ruayram.
Col Pornsak told the court that the occupational training was proposed by the NHRC Sub-Committee on Rights Protection, and was run with budget provided by Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4 and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. He presented documents on the training programme and an order by the 4th Army Commander dated July 22, 2007 prohibiting those who received the training to enter the three southernmost provinces and part of Songkhla province for 6 months, out of concern over the ongoing counter-insurgency, as authorized by the 1914 Martial Law Act.
Col Pornsak said that all trainees were linked to the insurgency; some were arrested with evidence such road spikes, camouflage outfits, or residue of explosive substances on their bodies, and some were implicated by others or by informants.
He said that participating in the training was like studying in boarding school with strict control and rules by military personnel. If they were permitted to leave the camps, they might be physically assaulted. The military cannot release them until the training is finished. Even if immediately released, they still cannot return home due to the order of the 4th Army Commander, or their safety cannot be guaranteed, he said.
NHRC sub-committee member Pongjaras testified that he himself was responsible for bringing 30 detainees to receive the training voluntarily, with only one of them staying at the Rattanarangsan military camp and not seeking a release. The other detainees in other camps were brought in by the military, he said.
Then the court asked the 6 detainees if they were forced to receive the training. All of them replied that they were forced and needed to return home immediately.
The court will read its decision on Oct 30.
In total, there are 203 detainees receiving occupational training in military bases in Ranong, Chumphon and Surat Thani provinces. Families of several detainees have filed complaints at all three provincial courts. The other provincial courts have conducted hearings and will also give their rulings on Oct 30.
Translated by Ponglert Pongwanan