After repeated delays over the past 7 years, a bill to criminalize torture and enforced disappearance may be debated in parliament as part of an emergency agenda. Many past cases have involved activities by the authorities which will become illegal if the bill passes.
The Office of the Secretariat of the Prime Minister issued a document on 17 August stating that the Cabinet has approved submission of the bill to the legislature for debate before passing into law, according to a source.
The exact date of the parliamentary debate is still uncertain. On 6 September, Sukit Attopakorn, an advisor to the Speaker of the House of Representatives told the media that the bill is the ninth item on the emergency agenda. If the government whip does not give it higher priority, there will be no time to consider it before the parliamentary session ends on 9 September.
Sitanan Satsaksit and Kanya Theerawut, relatives of victims of enforced disappearance Wanchalearm Satsaksit and Siam Theerawut, submitted petitions to the government whip and Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights asking them to prioritize the bill.
Sitanan said she wants the law to come into effect so that the people will no longer suffer torture and enforced disappearance by the authorities, according to The Reporters.
In total, there are 4 draft bills to be debated from the Democrat Party, the Prachachart Party, the House Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights based on an earlier draft by civil society, and from the Ministry of Justice, a draft which the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly failed to consider in 2014 and which, according to Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists, required amendments in order to comply with international law.
Despite their differences, every bill aims to criminalize torture and enforced disappearance by the authorities. Thai law has never had a clear definition of torture or enforced disappearance, despite having ratified the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2007 and signed (but not ratified) the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2012.
Source: Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
The drafts will make it illegal for the authorities to secretly detain and torture people, mandate prison sentences for guilty officials and their commanding superiors, allow victims’ relatives to file complaints as injured parties and provide compensation measures to victims and their families.
If passed, the law will provide clear legal benchmarks to end the impunity that the authorities have enjoyed from there being no clear criminal punishment for torturing people to extract information or confessions and for making people disappear.
Public pressure to pass this law has increased from time to time when cases of enforced disappearance and torture hit the news. Recent calls came in August after former Pol Col Thitisant Utthanaphon or ‘Joe Ferrari’, a high profile police officer, was videoed covering the head of an alleged drug dealer with 6 plastic bags, leading to his suffocation and death.
Since the 2014 coup, nine activists have been forcibly disappeared while living in self-exile. Two were later found dead. The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances 2020 report notes 75 outstanding cases of enforced disappearance in Thailand.