Update: Human Rights Watch learned that Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk and her two children, Panitan and Prakaidao, were released from military custody on May 26 on the condition that they not give interviews, make political comments, or take part in any political activities.
(New York) – Armed Thai soldiers raided the Bangkok house of human rights defender Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk and arrested her and her son, Panitan Prueksakasemsuk, Human Rights Watch said today. They have since gone missing. The Thai military junta, the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC), has provided no information as to their whereabouts, raising grave concerns about a possible enforced disappearance.
The NPOMC should immediately provide information as to the location of Sukanya and her son and allow them access to a lawyer and family members. As with others detained by the military since the coup, they should be promptly brought before a judge and charged with a credible offense or released.
“The Thai military’s arbitrary arrest of Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk and her son raises post-coup abuses to a new and disturbing level,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The military should immediately reveal their whereabouts. Concerned governments should be weighing in loud and clear about this case and about others wrongfully arrested since the coup.”
Military sources said that Sukanya and her son were to be taken to Bangkok’s Army Club, but there is no information that Sukanya and her son arrived there. People summoned by the NPOMC have been screened and questioned at the Army Club before being sent to detention at army camps. Those sent to the camps include politicians, activists, journalists, and individuals accused of organizing anti-martial law protests.
Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk is the wife of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a magazine editor who is serving a 13-year sentence under Thailand’s draconian lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) laws. Over the past three years, she has campaigned for the freedom of her husband and others imprisoned under the lese majeste laws. On May 23, Sukanya organized a peaceful rally opposing the military’s imposition of nationwide martial law. The NPOMC bans public gatherings of more than five people and prohibits opposition to martial law and military intervention under the Martial Law Act of 1914.
Enforced disappearances are defined under international law as the arrest or detention of a person by state officials or their agents followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty, or to reveal the person’s fate or whereabouts. Enforced disappearances violate a range of fundamental human rights protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party, including prohibitions against arbitrary arrest and detention; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and extrajudicial execution.
Enforced disappearances have long been a serious problem in Thailand. In a March 2007 report, “It Was Like Suddenly My Son No Longer Existed,” Human Rights Watch documented 22 cases of enforced disappearance that strongly implicated the Thai police and military. There has not been a single successful criminal prosecution in any of these cases.