Overriding the decision of prosecutors to drop charges, police in the Deep South have decided to press ahead with the prosecution of the outspoken niece of a draftee who was tortured to death.
On 16 March 2017, Naritsarawan Kaewnopparat, the niece of Wichian Puaksom, a military conscript who was tortured to death by other soldiers in 2011, submitted a letter to the Office of the Attorney-General at the Government Complex in Bangkok to call for justice.
She submitted the letter after Pol Maj Gen Ronnasin Phusara, Interim Commander of the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Centre, concluded that she should be charged under the Computer Crime Act and the law on criminal defamation for publishing on the internet details about the death of her late uncle.
The police decision contradicted the Director-General of the 9th Region Public Prosecutor’s Office and prosecutors of Narathiwat Province who earlier decided to drop the accusations against Naritsarawan.
The police arrested Naritsarawan on 26 July 2016 and took her to the Deep Southern province of Narathiwat following her Facebook post about the death of her uncle. She was later released on bail after she was allowed to use her position as an official of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security as a guarantee.
The warrant for her arrest was granted in February 2016 after Maj Phuri Phueksophon of the 4th Army Region, who commanded the unit responsible for the torture of Naritsarawan’s uncle, accused her of violating the Computer Crime Act and defaming him by exposing the torture.
Naritsarawan pointed out that Phuri was promoted from the rank of Sub Lieutenant to the rank of Major despite being one of the 10 soldiers accused of the torture that led to the death of Wichian, while the other 9 soldiers accused of torture were suspended from their posts.
After relentless efforts by Naritsarawan, Phuri was recently suspended from his military post in late 2016. Military prosecutors are now considering whether to indict him for torture and murder.
According to an investigation by the 4th Army Region, Wichian, who was then a 26-year-old military conscript in Narathiwat, was severely tortured by other soldiers and his superiors after he was accused of running away from military training.
The Army report said that a number of soldiers, at the request of Sub Lt Om Malaihom on 1 June 2011, stripped Wichian down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before repeatedly kicking him with military boots and beating him for several hours.
The report added that the soldiers applied salt to the wounds of the torture victim to increase the pain. They also wrapped his entire body with a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and read funeral rites, before engaging in another round of beating.