Activist allegedly beaten in police custody

Activist Sam Samat said he faced assault and queerphobic insults while he was detained at Din Daeng Police Station after being arrested while attending a vigil for a protester who was shot following a Din Daeng intersection protest and who later died.

Sam was arrested on 29 October 2021

Sam, a stateless man who often attends protests, was arrested on 29 October 2021 during a vigil for Warit Somnoi, a 15-year-old protester who was shot with live rounds following a protest at Din Daeng intersection on the night of 16 August 2021 and died on 28 October 2021 after spending 2 months in a coma at Rajavithi Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

Following Warit’s death, a crowd gathered at Din Daeng Police Station, where he was shot, for a candlelight vigil. The police station was surrounded by a row of police officers, as well as metal fences and razor wire. Sam demanded that the crowd be allowed inside to hold a candlelight vigil for Warit, but the police insisted they must stay outside.

Sam and Worawan Sae-aung, another regular protester, then went inside to light candles in front of the police station building. They also lit incense sticks and placed them near a tree in front of the building.

Later in the evening, while people continue to light candles in front of the police station, a unit of crowd control police in full riot gear appeared on the scene. Sam and 2 other protesters were arrested after protesters reportedly burned paper at the spirit house in front of the police station. Sam was later reported to have been taken to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau.

Sam gave an interview on Prachatai’s live broadcast on 10 February 2022 while he was waiting at the Bangkok Remand Prison to greet activist Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, who was being released after being granted bail.  Sam said that after he was arrested, he was taken to the second floor of Din Daeng Police Station, where he was kicked in the chest until he passed out, since he refused to take off his red high heels. Sam also said that he has evidence that he was assaulted in the form of a record at the Department of Corrections Hospital.

Sam said that the police sat him on a chair, put his hands behind his back, and kicked him many times, and that the crowd control police who arrested him also tried to choke him.

He also said that he faced queerphobic insult from the officers, who said that “Why the fuck would you come out and protest when you’re a katoei? It’s annoying.”

Sam said that he identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, and the officers made him feel like he was being sexually harassed.

“My feeling is that it’s an insult and a government official should not be saying something like this. It’s sexism,” Sam said.

Nevertheless, Sam said he is not discouraged and will continue fighting.

After he was arrested at Din Daeng Police Station, Sam was charged with violation of the Emergency Decree, joining an assembly of 10 or more people and causing a breach of public peace, not dispersing when ordered to do so by an officer, destroying property, arson, and being a foreign national staying in the country without permission. He was denied bail and detained on the ground that he was previously granted bail on a similar offense and that he is likely to repeat the offense if released.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) noted that Sam is not a foreign national but a stateless person, since he was born in Thailand to a Thai father and Cambodian mother. He has no documentation status since his parents were not married and separated when he was young, so his birth was not registered. He has also been living in Thailand all his life and does not have Cambodian citizenship.

Sam was previously arrested and detained twice. He was arrested on 26 March 2021 and detained on charges of violating the Emergency Decree, joining an assembly of 10 or more people and causing a breach of public peace, resisting an official, and staying in the country without permission. The charges are in relation to a protest on 28 February 2021, during which he walked from the Victory Monument to the 1st Infantry Regiment headquarters on Vibhavadi Road while carrying a Pride flag. He was accused of being the man shown in photographs to be urinating from a shipping container used by crowd control police to block the route to the 1st Infantry Regiment. He was granted bail and released on 5 July 2021, after spending 102 days in prison.

He was arrested again on 7 August 2021 on charges relating to a protest on 2 August 2021 at the Border Patrol Police Region 1 headquarters to demand the release of detained Thalufah activists. He was detained for 19 days before being granted bail on 26 August 2021.

After his arrest on 29 October 2021, Sam was granted bail and released on 16 December 2021. He was then immediately re-arrested on a destruction of public property charge and for being a foreign national staying in the country without permission. The police accused him of breaking the window of a detention truck while he was being taken to the Narcotics Suppression Bureau.

TLHR noted that the police could have charged Sam at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau or notified him of the charges while he was in detention, but instead, they requested the court for an arrest warrant two days before the end of his temporary detention period.

Sam was granted bail and released on 2 February 2022, after spending 96 days in prison.

Sam is not the only protester to claim that they were beaten by the police while detained at Din Daeng Police Station after the 29 October 2021 vigil. Auttasit Nussa and Weeraphab Wongsaman both said they were beaten and received death threats while in police custody. They later filed a complaint with the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) against the Din Daeng police, but there has been little progress in the investigation.

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