May 2, 2017
The Thai government should immediately disclose the whereabouts of Prawet Prapanukul, a prominent human rights lawyer and critic of the monarchy, who has been missing since security forces raided his Bangkok home on April 29, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. Authorities have not acknowledged his arrest and detention, raising grave concerns that he is the victim of an enforced disappearance.
“The Thai junta should urgently disclose Prawet’s whereabouts and release him if he hasn’t been charged with a credible offense,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Secretly detaining rights lawyers, critics of the monarchy, and other dissidents has created a climate of fear in Thailand that is generating international outrage.”
Officers of the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta, together with soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division and police from Bangkok’s Bang Khen Police Station, carried out a morning raid on Prawet’s house. An official receipt shows that Prawet’s computers, hard drives, flash drives, mobile telephones, CDs containing political programs, and various political T-shirts were confiscated. However, there is no official notification that Prawet was arrested or is in state custody.
The United Nations Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) urges the Thai Government to halt the practice of arbitrary detention of political activists, and to immediately release six people recently charged with criticising authorities.
On 29 April 2017, two political activists – Mr. Danai Tibsuya, a former military officer from Chiang Mai, and Mr. , a Bangkok-based lawyer – were arrested and detained by the military under the lese-majeste law for criticising the King on Facebook. The two men were taken to an unknown location.
On 4 May 2017, the two activists and four other individuals were paraded at a media conference held at the Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division. The six individuals were charged under the lese-majeste law. Two also face a charge under the Computer Crime Act. Mr. Prawet was also charged under the sedition law reportedly for criticising the Prime Minister. The accused are currently being held at the Bangkok Remand Prison. None of the activists have been given access to legal representatives and their families.
“I am very concerned at the sharp increase in the use of the lese-majeste law after the 2014 coup, with more than 70 people detained or convicted.” said Laurent Meillan, the acting Regional Representative. He added that the UN human rights mechanisms repeatedly stated that the implementation of the law ran contrary to fundamental rights of freedom of expression and opinion.
The UN Human Rights Office is also concerned about the use of incommunicado detention. In March 2017, Thailand was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Committee which raised concerns that individuals had been arrested and detained at undisclosed places without access to lawyers. It recommended that Thailand immediately bring its legislation and practices into compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
(UN Human Rights – Asia Facebook)