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In a meeting on 27 June, the senate approved an ad-hoc committee request to extend discussion of a draft act to prevent torture and enforced disappearances until mid-August so that its stipulations can be thoroughly examined.  The bill passed the lower house on 28 February 2022 after a first reading.

A file photo of a campaign poster in support of the anti-torture bill.

According to the extension request signed by committee chairperson, Pol Gen Chatchaval Suksomchit, the committee was originally slated to finish considering the draft by 15 July 2022 so that it could be sent on for senate approval.

In the Thai parliamentary system, the upper house or senate reviews laws that have been approved by the lower house, or house of the representative. If both bodies approve, the bills are then passed to the king for signature and subsequently come into force after being published in the royal gazette. 

Consideration in each house can have up to three readings: the first considers general principles; the second examines legislative details; and the third considers the bill in its entirety.  The upper house cannot stop the lower house from passing legislation.  However, it can block a law from being adopted and ask the lower house to amend draft details.

The post-2014 coup period witnessed the growing use of an exceptional category of law called ‘reform law’, draft bills proposed by junta leaders. These required that both houses consider the bill at the same time to hasten the legislative process. Examples include the draft Act on the National Police, a police reform plan, and the draft Act on Media Ethics and Professional Standards, an effort to tighten government control of the media.

Assuming the senate passes an act like that approved by the lower house, it will make it illegal for state authorities to secretly detain and torture people.  Prison sentences for both perpetrators and their commanding officers will be imposed.  It will also allow victims’ relatives to file complaints as injured parties to seek compensation.

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), an NGO that has long advocated against torture and enforced disappearance, published a statement of concern over the decision to delay.  They note that if delays continue, consideration of the amendment might not be finished by the current administration, bringing a 10-year-long effort back to square one.

Victims oppose further delay for anti-torture bill

“In effect, the senate, consisting of individuals appointed by the National Council for Peace and Order junta, would be obstructing the will of the lower house which passed the bill by 359 votes in favour, 1 abstention, and 2 no-votes,” the CrCF statement noted.

Thailand ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) in 2007 and signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) in 2012. In order for the ICCPED to be ratified, domestic laws in line with the Convention must be implemented. In this case, the anti-torture bill is needed.

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