Thailand Facing New Controversy Over Death of Teen Activist, Despite Dropping Defamation Suits

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – The controversy surrounding the death of teenage activist Chaiyaphum Pasae, who was shot and killed by Thai soldiers during a drug raid, continues to grow. Conflicting accounts of what happened leading up to Pasae’s death are adding to the uproar warning of intimidation and manipulation by Thailand’s military.

Chaiyaphum Pasae, ethnic rights activist, was shot and killed by the Thai military on March 17, 2017. Photo courtesy of FrontLineHRD.

Accoring to the military, Pasae was travelling in a car when he was stopped at a routine checkpoint. While the car was being searched for drugs, the military says, Pasae ran from the scene and into a nearby jungle. He was about to throw a hand grenade when one soldier intervened and shot Pasae in self defense. Eye witnesses, however, report a very different unfolding of events. Eye witnesses are claiming that the group of soldiers physically assaulted Pasae at the checkpoint, and as he attempted to escape, he was shot by one of the soldiers.

Human rights organizations have long warned of the lack of protections for activists in Thailand. The United Nations warned that groups like human rights defenders, women, and other vulnerable groups are most susceptible to such abuses. The UN report notes that hundreds of individuals have been jailed since the 2014 military coup for exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.

In early March, the Thai military took a small but significant step in ending government intimidation by dropping frivolous defamation suits against three prominent activists. In 2016, rights lawyers Somchai Homlaor, Pornpen Khongkachonkie, and Anchana Heemmina published a report citing 54 cases of alleged military abuse and torture of prisoners in military custody. The Thai Internal Security Operations Command responded by filing a criminal complaint against the lawyers, accusing them of defamation and breaches of the Computer Crimes Act.

Thailand has a long way to go when ensuring the equal protection of human rights, and human rights organizations will continue to keep an eye on the government and its actions.

For more information, please see:

Asian Correspondent – Thailand: Pressure grows for transparency in probe on teen activist’s death – 31 March, 2017

Asian Correspondent – Activists, women and ethnic minorities lack protection in Thailand – UN – 29 March, 2017

VOA News – Activists Welcome Thai Decision to Drop Charges Against Rights Report Author – 8 March, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Thailand: Defamation Cases Dropped Against Activists – 7 March, 2017

Author: Nicole Hoerold

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