BANGKOK – Rights groups on Tuesday urged Thailand’s military rulers to probe allegations a ‘Red Shirt’ activist was tortured during her near one-month detention by soldiers after the coup.
The army has summoned, detained and warned hundreds of political opponents including Red Shirt supporters of the toppled former government as they smother dissent across the country in the wake of their seizure of power on 22 May.
In a video released on YouTube, Kritsuda Khunasen, 27, accused her captors of keeping her blindfolded, tied up and interrogating her under duress between 27 May and 24 June.
She was held incommunicado and without charge for much longer than the seven days permitted under the martial law invoked by the army shortly before its power grab. Kritsuda was released without charge.
“I didn’t see their faces,” she said of her captors in the video believed to be filmed outside of Thailand.
“While I was tortured, they covered my eyes and tied up my hands so that I couldn’t resist.”
Human Rights Watch say she told them she was slapped, punched and suffocated during her detention.
The allegations are “further cause for alarm that rights protections are not on the military’s agenda”, said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, urging a swift, independent investigation.
The allegations are a “test case for the junta’s respect for human rights”, he added.
Thai-based rights group the Cross Cultural Foundation said it was “extremely concerned” by Kritsuda’s allegations.
“There should be no secret locations, relatives must be notified and a detainee has the right to meet their relatives and lawyers,” it said in a statement over the weekend.
The army, which obfuscated over Kritsuda’s whereabouts for several days as concerns mounted for her safety, has denied torture.
Army spokesperson Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumner said he met Kritsuda in detention and she was not “tortured or beaten as she says”, adding he tried to convince her to “be patriotic and stop conflict” between political rivals.
“Was I wrong to do that?” he added.
The Thai junta has justified the coup and the subsequent detentions of hundreds of political opponents as necessary to restore peace and order after months of protests, pock-marked by violence, against the former government.
It released most of those detained after a few days, insisting they were treated well.
Meanwhile, The United Nations human rights office on Tuesday called for an independent investigation into the alleged torture of Kritsuda Khunasen, a Thai student activist who was working for a key member of the “Red Shirts” group when she was detained and held in custody for nearly a month.
“We have been very concerned by the methods of arrest and detention of politicians, activists, academics and journalists following the military coup in Thailand in May this year,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told journalists in Geneva.
The UN office has raised Khunasen’s case with Thai authorities on at least two occasions. But OHCHR has not received any substantive feedback from the authorities so far.