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THAILAND: Death penalty for 3 police officers for murder

August 9, 2012

THAILAND: Statement on the death penalty imposed on three police officers for extrajudicial killing of Kiattisak Thitboonkrong

On 30 July 2012, in the Black Case No. O3252/2552 involving the murder of Mr. Kiattisak Thitboonkrong, 17 years, the Criminal Court condemned to death the first three defendants including Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Angkarn Kammoonna, Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Sutthinant Noenthing and Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Phansilp Uppanant. In detail, they were penalized for one year in jail for their offence involving the removing of dead body to conceal the cause of death and inflicted with death sentence for premeditated murder. In the same case, the fifth defendant, Pol. Col. Montree Sriboonloue, was convicted to seven years in jail for abusing his office since he misused his power as an in charge investigator to help other persons from being brought to justice. The sixth defendant, Pol. Lt. Col. Sumitr Nanthasathit, was convicted to life sentence for conspiring to commit a premeditated murder. The fourth defendant, Pol. Lt. Col. Samphao Indee, was acquitted. In this case, the first to sixth defendants have been prosecuted for conspiring to commit a premeditated murder and removing the body and concealing the cause of death and for abusing their power as investigation officers to prevent other persons from being brought to justice. The first to third defendants and the sixth defendant, police officers of the Maung Kalasin Police Station, were accused of killing Mr. Kiattisak Thitboonkrong, 17 years, an alleged offender in a thief offence. After he was brought out of the police station, he was allegedly strangled to death and an attempt to conceal the cause of his death was made including moving his body to a makeshift in a paddy field in Ban Bung Na, Changharn District, Roi Et Province, and having it hung there. Eyewitnesses have also been subjected to intimidation. The incidence took place around 21-22 July 2004 during the harsh War on Drug by the Thaksin Shinawatra government. A number of people were found dead during the implementation of the policy to suppress drug trafficking throughout the country including Kalasin where the killing of Mr. Kiattisak was supposed to have taken place. There are also many other similar cases under investigation.

The Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) and the undersigned human rights organizations would like to express our opinions on the case as follows;

1. Efforts by concerned parties including the affected families, eyewitnesses, Department of Special Investigation (DSI), public prosecutors, attorneys of co-plaintiffs, and the judges in the investigation should be commended. The case is an exemplary attempt to bring to justice any officers committing an offence and would help to end impunity among governmental officers. The case also reflects many obstacles to the attempt to bring to justice officers who commit criminal offences owing to the culture of impunity whereby mutual favour is given among officers. In addition, given that the concealing of the cause of death and destruction of evidence in this case was committed by police officers themselves, it was not very easy to prove their guilt. Several witnesses were subjected to intimidation as well. The verdict in this case sets a good example that governmental officers who commit any crime should also be brought to justice, just like other civilians and other officers in higher ranks. It should help to eventually eliminate the culture of impunity among the officers. As state officers who have more power than civilians, they shall exercise their power cautiously, honestly, justly with integrity and respect in rights and freedom and dignity of people who own the country. And to upkeep public order and peace, they shall refrain from abusing their power.

2. The case of Mr. Kiattisak Thitboonkrong also reflects decadence of justice system in Thailand, particularly the misuse of power by the officers and the adoption of cruel and inhumane to penalize the juvenile alleged offenders. The officers were involved with deceiving families of the victim, enforced disappearance of local people, committing cruel treatment, committing murder and concealing the cause of death, all of which are an obvious breach to the rule of law and human rights standards including the 1976 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand has acceded since 27 October 1996.

3. A lack of respect of due process in a criminal justice process against a child under 18 years does exist. And such gross negligence has partly contributed to the death of Mr. Kiattisak Thitboonkrong by the act of officers.

4. Concerned agencies involving many other ongoing investigations on similar cases in Kalasin are urged to expedite their efforts in order to provide for justice of the victims and the innocent persons and to bring light to the truth.

5. The Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) and the undersigned human rights organizations note that death penalty is still permitted under Section 18 of the Penal Code. Capital punishment is an act to destroy the highest value of humanity which is life, and as a result human beings should not kill each other. Such a notion is also reflected in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) which enshrines the right to life and the Second National Human Rights Master Plan (2009-2013) indicates as an indicator of success to include the review of laws which permit capital punishment and to eliminate capital punishment within 2013. That Thailand still applies death penalty is tantamount to a breach of fundamental human rights principle and contradicts to the trend of respecting human rights within international community since more than 141 UN member states have revoked death penalty save for 57 countries including Thailand. In addition, capital punishment is founded on a premise of an eye for an eye and according to studies, it has failed to bring down the prevalence of crime. Punishment against a person should be appropriate to the causes and should engender a learning process to aid the offenders toward repentance.

With due respect,

Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)
Campaign Committee for Human Rights (CCHR)
Peace and Human Rights Resource Center (PHRC)

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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