The Thai police have been ordered by the Constitutional Court to implement a new law that prohibits torture and enforced disappearance of suspects in custody. The law, which was passed by the parliament in August 2022, requires officers to videotape and record interrogations of suspects and hold commanders accountable for any violations. The law also bans secret detention and protects complainants from retaliation.
The law was supposed to take effect in February 2023, but the government delayed its enforcement, citing a police request for more time to procure enough video recording equipment. However, on Thursday, the court ruled that the delay violated the constitution and ordered the police to implement the law at once.
The law was enacted after several cases of alleged torture and enforced disappearance by Thai authorities came to light. In May 2022, a court ruled that there was no evidence of torture in the death of a suspected insurgent who fell into a coma after being arrested by the military in 2019. In August 2021, six police officers were sentenced to life in prison for the in-custody death of a drug suspect who was suffocated with plastic bags over his head. The incident was caught on video and released on social media.
Human rights activists welcomed the court ruling and urged the authorities to implement the law effectively. Angkhana Neelaphaijit, the former national human rights commissioner, said she appreciated the court ruling as she had fought for the law’s passage. “I am pleased because we have been waiting for a long time, and we want to see enforcement by the relevant authorities, including Thai police, DSI and prosecutors,”.
The law also includes a provision that codifies the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the forced return of a person to a country where they may face torture or other forms of ill-treatment. This provision could prevent Thai officials from pushing back refugees from Myanmar, where the military junta has committed widespread and systematic torture of civilians since the coup d’état in February 2021.