Torture and ill treatment in Thailand’s Deep South
Cross Cultural Foundation,
Duayjai & Patani Human Rights Organization
Race and religion are the roots of the conflict in the southern border provinces of Thailand and have inspired a history of conflict since the Kingdom of Siam was at war with the Kingdom of Patani (also spelled Pattani) in ancient times. This war resulted in the Kingdom of Siam annexing Pattani along with Muslim Malay areas in the southern region, and creating a colony during the Rattanakosin era (circa 1782) under the reign of King Rama I. The areas were later annexed as part of the Kingdom of Siam in 1902, during the reign of King Rama V. Other land in the southern Malacca peninsula belonged to the British Empire. Liberation fighter groups have been demanding an independent state, or the right to autonomy to establish a “state of Patani”, all the way through to the present day. Waves of resistance movements opposing the domination of Thai governance and the repression caused by the Thai state have resulted in a protracted social conflict with sporadic periods of violence. These conditions have been further exacerbated by the fact that the administrative machinery of the Thai state lacks knowledge and understanding of the religious complexities of the region.
The latest wave of violence commenced with the gun robbery at the Piling Military Camp in Narathiwat province on 4 January 2004 and has been ongoing to the present day. Twelve years later the violence in these areas shows no signs of decline. According to the Deep South Watch, violent incidents that have occurred between 2004 to 2014 were logged at 14,688 counts, resulting in up to 6286 deaths: an of average 571 deaths per year. A total number of 11,366 people have been injured: 1033 persons per year.
The Thai government has been trying to curb the violence by implementing various measures, including the enactment and implementation of special legislation which gives authorities to search, prohibit, raid, arrest, confine or detain a person without a court warrant. The Martial Law Act 1914, Emergency Decree 2005, Emergency Decree on Public Administration in a State of Emergency 2005, and the Serious State of Emergency Order in the southern border provinces all allow authorities to detain persons suspected of being involved in an incident relating to national security in a military compound and /or in special facilities for a period not exceeding seven days. Additionally, authorities can detain a person by virtue of the Emergency Decree for a period not exceeding seven days, with an option to extend the detention for a term of not more than seven days, totaling a period not more than 30 days altogether, without seeking permission of the court. During this time, a detainee does not have to be charged with any criminal offense in order to validate their detention.
Although the law establishes a principle that a person arrested and detained under special laws in Thailand is only a suspect, and not a person who has been accused of committing a crime under criminal procedure, the rights of these individuals remain limited in comparison to accused persons in criminal cases. For example, a detainee is unable to meet relatives or a lawyer; is unable to seek bail or a provisional release; and is able to be visited sometimes but subject to stringent time limitations. In some cases, a detainee’s detention facility is concealed, or officials subsequently relocate the individual to a different facility to prevent further access to relatives. The concerned authorities can question anyone arrested or detained by virtue of a special law. This process is geared towards extracting information from the suspects, particularly whether they were involved in the insurgency or not. The process is also an informal means for gathering evidence beyond the scope of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The Emergency Decree section 11(1), authorizes a competent authority to arrest and restrain a person suspected of having taken part in the provocation of the state of emergency, being a principal, inciter or aider therein or thereof, or concealing certain information in connection therewith; prescribed that the arrest or restraint must be made only for the purpose of preventing the person in question from committing or partaking in any action likely to worsen the situation or extracting his cooperation on the abatement of the serious situation.
Although the laws grant special powers to the authorities to restrict certain freedoms and liberties of people in special circumstances, there is no law, domestic or international, that grants authorities the power to inflict torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and punishment (hereinafter referred to as “torture”). Moreover, an act of torture constitutes a punishable crime for which an official should be held accountable.
The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) and organizations in its network have been receiving many complaints from detainees and arrestees that they were tortured and/or subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. Hence, the CrCF, Duayjai Group, and the Patani Human Rights Organization (HAP), with the support of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, have collected data on torture cases, assisted victims of torture to alleviate pain from both physical and mental damage, and are working to provide rehabilitation and support. Additionally, these organizations have provided legal assistance to those victims to access the justice system and receive remedies from the state. The groups also make recommendations to the authorities and government agencies for effective implementation of laws, policies, and practices to prevent and eradicate torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment, which is still pervasive in the southern border provinces.
Article 1(1) of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1984 (hereafter “CAT”), which Thailand ratified on 1 November 2007, defines “torture” as
“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as: (1) Obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession; (2) Punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed;(3) Or intimidating or coercing him or a third person; or (4) Any reason based on discrimination of any kind when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
Under the CAT, article 4(1), each State Party, including Thailand shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. Nevertheless, Thailand has not enacted the necessary laws. In fact, Thailand had ratified the Convention with a declaration and reservation on the definition of “torture” such that an act of torture shall accordingly be punishable in conformity with the pre-existing Thai Penal Code. It will eventually withdraw the reservation by revising or amending its domestic law to include all acts of torture as offenses in the law, such that domestic law is in consonance with the CAT. The Law Reform Council, the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection, and the Ministry of Justice are said to be working on the revision.
2.2. “Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”
The CAT did not stipulate a definition of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment orpunishment” because this form of human rights violation is socially and culturally specific to each country. Thus, outlining a definition would be very restrictive and possibly undermine the goal of prevention of human rights violations. The Convention also did not stipulate that “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” must be criminal offences. Even if some state parties to the Convention do not stipulate acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as criminal offenses, under article 16 of the Convention, the State Party is accountable to obligations under the Convention when a violation occurs.
Thailand has not stipulated “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” as being criminal offences, but when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity, the person(s) responsible for such acts may still have both criminal and administrative or disciplinary liabilities, as the case may be.
3. Data collection on the situation in the southern border provinces
The CrCF, Duai Jai Group, and the Patani Human Rights Organization have received complaints from relatives, victims of torture and related parties through fact-finding fieldwork and data gathering. They used the “Assessment of Torture Impacts for Physicians Analysis” tool designed by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABAROLI), which is based on the Istanbul Protocol to frame questions and document impacts of torture. The Istanbul Protocol (Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) is designed to investigate and document torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment cases effectively. It was written by a collaboration of forensic scientists, physicians, psychiatrists, human rights special rapporteurs and legal experts globally to establish standards with which to document and collect data and evidences from torture cases, to offer guidelines for integrative victim assistance, and to present evidence from physical and mental injuries to courts in a systematic manner.
3.1. Data set
Based on preliminary information from initial data collection conducted in 2014-2015 and a preliminary examination of victims of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (hereinafter referred to as “torture victims”), there were 54 cases of complaints received from victims of torture. Of these 54 cases documented, 15 persons were tortured while being held in custody of security officers during 2015, 17 persons during 2014, and the remaining 22 during or prior to 2013.
All victims of torture were ethnic Malay, Muslim men. The majority was between 29 to 38 years old (28 persons). The second largest group of victims was between 19 to 28 years old (21 persons). The remaining five persons were aged 39 to 48.
The victims mainly lived in the Pattani Province, totaling 31 persons, with 13 persons living in Narathiwat and 10 in Yala.
3.2. Character of torture
Acts of torture in the southern border provinces are systematic. They are widespread, intended and regular. Torture is aimed at obtaining information or a confession from victims by state authorities, composed both of the police and the military. In spite of complaints, grievances and campaigns against torture by victims, relatives, and local and international organizations, the state has not taken any significant action to prevent and address torture. Additionally, no punitive action has been taken against the officers involved.
3.2.1. Torture during arrest
During an arrest, physical assaults occur. Authorities have claimed that traces of injury or the use of force are the result of skirmishes or because a suspect has resisted an arrest. However, records indicate that even after persons had already submitted themselves to officials, they were subjected to physical assaults, threats of violence, and mock executions.
The following are excerpts from interviews that have been conducted with victims of torture during arrest. All identifying details have been removed. Individual interviewees are indicated with a code number consisting of a letter for the group responsible for interview (D, Duayjai; H, HAP), interview number, and year. We begin with a former 30-year-old detainee who recalled what happened to him in 2006:
“At about 2am two army officials in green uniforms, two police officials and some defense volunteers and five plain-clothed officials came. A Muslim police official gave a salaam [customary greeting] and asked whether I was there. My father said I was there and they called me out, and handcuffed me behind my back. They accused me of being a Yala bombing suspect. They took me to a minivan with seven officials. They called me ‘bastard’ and threatened me to confess. I replied that I had not known about the bomb and on that day I was not in Yala. When I denied the allegations, an official said, ‘So you want to see real thing?’ The officials covered my head with a black plastic bag for two to three minutes, until I suffocated. They said if I did not confess, I’d die. Then two officials used a three-foot-long stick, covered with a piece of cloth, to hit me on his back and the front over ten times. I ran out of breath from the pain inside and could not bear it anymore so I raised my hands and asked them to stop. The official said, ‘How can I stop? You must confess, then I will stop’, and that if I did not confess, they would continue hitting and they threatened to kill my family members. I was so worried and very scared of what would happen to the family.” (DJ.02.2014)
Another 30-year-old detainee recounted what happened to him when taken into custody on 30 November 2013,
“The Selatan Ranger [paramilitary] Unit brought 13 truckloads of about 50-60 men to surround an area and arrest six young people. Then they went and searched every house in the neighborhood. They came to search the place where I was living. At that time I was cooking dinner with five friends and the landlord. Officers arrested a friend, who wasn’t a local, and me. They used a white cable plastic tie to restrain my wrists behind my back. Four to five officials stomped on my back and ribs many times and then dragged me outside the house (before this I had already surrendered by raising both hands). When I was outside the house, they told me to stretch my legs and officials stood on my legs and calves while I was lying face down. I was beaten on the head several times. Afterwards, the officials found a gun in the house. It belonged to a friend. The officials questioned me and smacked my head, and then the officials took me into the house alone. Approximately 13 officials kicked me and asked where the guns were. I said I did not know and there was no gun. The officials threatened to shoot me if I did not give out information on the guns. I replied that if I have any guns, shoot me. The officials smacked, hit, and slapped me on my back torso many times until I was so numb and I was drifting in and out of consciousness. Officials took me to a vehicle. I was lying on my side while they surrounded me. Some officials on the top stomped on my head, the other two on the side stepped on my shoulders on both sides. They forced me to confess but I refused, so the official who was stomping on my head did it repeatedly until my head was bleeding. The ones in the front also did the same with combat boots. Later, the officials had not done anything more as I was severely beaten and injured and I would have more injuries [a photo shows the man’s wounds after a week]. They had beaten me until I confessed. When I arrived at Wat Sri Sakorn temple, the officials ordered me to confess to the crime and I complied and confessed. Then the officials took me to the Wang Phaya military camp, while I was transported, they also beat me on the chest repeatedly and continuously. They also threatened to harm my family so as to obtain a confession.” (DJ.04.2014)
A 34-year-old said that in 2013,
“My arrest happened approximately at midnight. The Selatan Unit came to my home and workplace in the village. They woke homeowners up and ordered them to walk downstairs. I was separated from other residents. The officials called my name and asked if I was there, I said yes. Then I was handcuffed and escorted back to the car. They asked where the gun was. I said I do not have any guns. The Selatan officials who were wearing combat boots kicked me and then took photos to check if I was wounded. They kicked, questioned and stomped on my wrist then poked the barrel of a gun in my mouth three to four times. I felt extremely pained and exhausted that my body went numb. One of them took his boots off and rubbed a foot on my face once. [A culturally degrading action.] I was on the outside of a car for about two hours. Then, I was taken to a car and my wrists were tied with plastic cables.” (DJ.05.2014)
One 29-year-old interviewee reported that,
“At 10.30pm on 13 February 2014, I was at a teashop in the center of a village. About five minutes later, the military and police forces surrounded the mosque, which was empty. The officials fired some shots at the teashop, so I ran away and they chased after me. When officers caught me, they dragged me on the concrete path into the mosque. Officials prevented me from wearing my sarong. They pushed me to lay my face down on the ground with my hands bound with a piece of white rope and handcuffs. Then I was beaten, punched, kicked and smashed at the back of the head, shoulders, and torso by the officials. I was later escorted to my house wearing just a shirt. They searched my house and only during the search was I allowed to wear a sarong.” (DJ.07.2014)
A 29-year-old said,
“After prayers and before I was to go to tap rubber on 10 April 2014, I was lying and watching TV in the house. Then a joint three-agency force, all armed, from military, police and administrative officials surrounded my village. Suddenly, the officials grabbed me by force. I fell over in mud in a waterway. My limbs went weak because of fear. Then four officials stomped on my back, neck and head. Then they dragged me up a dirt hill behind my house. All four officials smelled of strong alcohol and appeared obviously intoxicated. They started kicking my body. An elder relative living next door to me tried to tell them not to hurt me but was chased back into the house. They dragged me deeper into the back of the house and the same four officials kicked my torso and head many times. The authorities then pushed me down and stomped me vigorously several times, meanwhile they used their hands to squeeze my throat on and off until I was almost out of breath twice in a row. I was tired and exhausted, obviously, but they still kicked me. The officials used plastic cable straps to tie my arms to the back and pushed me down,then pushed their feet on my torso for a long time. They shoved the muzzle of an M16 rifle into my mouth and banged so hard that the lower teeth were broken. The muzzle was pushed hard that my uvula and throat had an inflammation, so that I could not swallow my saliva because it was very painful.” (H.05.2014)
3.2.2. Torture while being transported in a vehicle
After an arrest, officials take arrestees to facilities designated for detention or interrogation, or to other places to identify a crime scene. When a detainee is being transported in a vehicle, officials may hurt a suspect by crushing the torso and head or beating with a rifle butt. For instance, a 44-year old told us
“At 6pm on 13 May 2015 military and police officials and three joint operation forces of more than 100 persons surrounded my house. At that time, I was leaving to pray at Makrib prayer time. Officials stopped me from reentering my house, where my wife and two [teenage] children were. There were two other guests. There was a clash between the authorities and the people in the house at that time. One person died and the other was arrested. I was also arrested. While the situation was still unclear, officials dragged my [17-year-old] son out of the house. (While he was in the house) the officers slapped and kicked his head several times. I saw everything that happened to my son. While I was in a car with another friend we were beaten, kicked in the face, slapped on the head several times. They threatened to kill me. I was hurt and very upset by this harsh treatment.” (H.06.2014)
A 26-year-old interviewee said that on 21 November 2013, “When I was in a vehicle, they hit me with a helmet at the nape of my neck. They put the helmet on my head and knocked on it like they were playing a drum.” (DJ.13.2015)
A 27-year-old informed us that
“At 6am on 19 March 2014 a truckload of 29 officials came to my house. My mother-in-law was opening the door to arrange goods for sale out front. A volunteer defense official asked for names of people in my house, then they took me to an Isuzu pick-up truck, which belonged to an official. I was handcuffed with my wrists to the back. Police officials asked if I knew [a particular] four persons. I said I did not know some of them and there was someone I knew. They searched my house for a period of time but they did not find anything. They dragged me behind a car, then they kicked my eye and my lips two to three times and my chest seven to eight times. When my lips were bleeding, an official said stop. There were other officials watching. I was threatened with guns. At 7am I was taken to a car and was driven around a crowded bazaar. The officials stopped the car to have people there see me. They drove to a location where a ranger was shot, then the police said to me, ‘Run away, if you can escape, you will survive. I will count one to ten.’ I thought why did I have to run? I did not commit a crime. I was silent. The officials were angry with me. One of them pressed a rifle very hard on my hip. I was in pain and the area was swelling. I could not walk. They asked why I did not run way. I said ‘Why should I run? I did not do anything wrong’. An official said, ‘Unfortunately, you did not run, otherwise I would have sent you to see your [dead] father’. I was very indignant and vengeful against the officials but I remained silent.” (DJ.15.2014)
3.2.3. Torture during interrogation
Interrogations take a long time. Some persons interviewed said they were interrogated for over 20 days, while others were for three to four days. During an interrogation, a person may be subjected to many forms of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment, as in the case of a 29-year-old interviewee, detained on 17 December 2013,
“I was taken to the Frontal Police Command Center. On the first night, plain-clothed officials wearing black outfits and combat boots beat me at 2.30am. Some of them were those who had arrested me at a dormitory. They were Buddhists and Muslims. They called me for a questioning session and took me to a shooting range in the Frontal Police Commanding Center compound. Ten officials interrogated me while I was squatting on the ground. They asked the same questions as earlier and accused me of lying. They stomped and kicked my mouth. My teeth were broken. They used a rifle butt to crush my eyes. My eyes felt painful, swollen and bruised. My sight was dim. My nose was bleeding. I lost consciousness and I had pain in my eyes, mouth and chest. On the third night, I was partially conscious and was mumbling in my sleep. The officials continued to bring me from my detention room and question me again and again. During the questioning session, I was seated on a chair, while one of the officials kicked my lower legs. It was very painful. The kicking continued until the end of the questioning session. I was questioned everyday in the morning, midday, afternoon and in the evening from 8 to 11pm from 24 December 2013 to 8 January 2014. On 7 January 2014 and 8 January 2014, the officials took me to another interrogation, and one threatened, ‘If you don’t tell me, I will rape your wife and hurt you. I won’t let your family live.’ The official further said they had an intention to kill me if I did not give any information. The light was kept on in the detention place at the Frontal Police Command Center during all days and nights.” (DJ.06.2014)
Another 29-year-old said
“On 13 February 2014, I was brought to the Ingkayuthaborihan Camp. I was taken to a shipping container. The first night, rangers beat me to obtain a confession. Ten officials slapped my head, kicked my abdomen, punched my back and then blindfolded me. Two rangers pushed a barrel of a gun into my mouth. I was further smacked, slapped and strangulated with a piece of electricity cord until I was choking. Then, the officials loosened the cord about five times. They put a black plastic bag over my head three to four times and poured water on my head until dawn. In the morning, the officials took me for a medical examination in the military camp but a doctor did not examine me. The doctor only issued a medical examination certificate, saying I had not been beaten. I was beaten in the same manner for three days at the camp, during the seven days there. They forced me to sign documents, threatened to torch my house and assault my family. I was detained at the Ingkayuthaborihan Camp for 28 days in a freezing cold detention cell with an air conditioner from 11 am to midnight, and then sent to bed without any washing for prayers. The room was very small. I was detained in the cold room and not allowed to pray for five days. Then the officials ordered me to sign documents again, but I refused. Thus, the officials forebode me from seeing my family and relatives. Finally, I signed the documents because I had been beaten and I was in pain all over my body. The officials threatened to harm my wife and my parents and to torch my house. They also threatened that if I did not confess, they would find a way to put me in jail.” (DJ.07.2014)
3.3. When, where and who?
Suspects are often detained in a local military facility for three to seven days, then transferred to a detention center under the Emergency Decree at Reconciliation Promotion Center,Ingkayuthaborihan Camp in Pattani Province, the Peace Protection Center, the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Center in Yala Province, the Ranger SpecialForce Unit 41 in the Raman District in Yala Province for a period not exceeding 30 days before they will either be released, or detained further under the Criminal Procedure Code. Alleged perpetrators of torture during arrest and transfer are from joint operation forces, composed of military officials, police and civilian officials. However, there were fewer complaints of torture during this process in comparison to the interrogation process, which is typically conducted by military officials. Of the 54 cases documented, military officials interrogated 48 and the police at the Peace Protection Center in the Southern Police Operation Center, Yala Province, 13. [Some detainees both police and military interrogated.]
Locations allegedly used for torture extensively included the Reconciliation Promotion Center, Ingkayuthaborihan military camp, Pattani Province, where most incidents occurred, and also the Ranger Special Force Unit 41, Raman District, Yala Province. Other special force units also have been reported as using torture, including Special Force Unit 41, 43, 46, and 47, Wat Chang Hai Temple Special Force Unit, Wat Liab Temple Special Force Unit, in Saiburi District, Pattani Province, and Wat Suthokawas Special Force Unit (Wat Sakkhi) temple in Laharn Sub- district, Saiburi District, Pattani Province, where special force units are located. In these facilities a person can be detained by virtue of the Martial Law up to seven days.
[Editorial note: The reference to “Wat” special units indicates they are encamped at the compounds of Buddhist temples, ostensibly for the security of the temples against Islamic militants.]
4. Torture methods
Torture entails inflicting severe pain and under the CAT definition it includes both physical and mental pain. From our data gathering, the following methods have been used to torture.
4.1. Psychological torture methods
Blackmailing is the easiest method of torture and it is effective when a person is detained for a long period of time. Blackmailing puts pressure on the person who is being interrogated to give answers, admissions or information that an interrogator wants. Officials usually involve threats to harm loved ones such as a father, mother, wife or a child, such as by telling a detainee, “If you don’t talk, I will take your wife and rape her. Your family will not live” (DJ.06.2014). This interviewee was crying as he related the ordeal because he was in anguish, and fearful of the threats made by the officials. The interviewee feared that he would be killed if he did not give them the information.
4.1.2. Mock execution, threat of killing
Mock execution induces fear. There are many forms of mock execution, including pointing a gun at one’s head or firing a gun near a victim; making a victim hear noises from assaulting someone the victim is closely related to (mock execution of the close relative); and covering a victim’s head with a black piece of plastic and strangling a victim’s neck. These methods make a victim feel close to death or that someone else is dying, which has tremendous mental impact, despite rarely leaving any physical traces behind. Mental suffering after a person had been exposed to a mock execution includes anxiety, depression and stress. Symptoms of anxiety are fear, weeping, loss of ability to control one’s movement and pleading for one’s life. According to one detainee,
“On 30 March 2007 officials brought me from the room [where I was being detained] at nightfall, ordered me to wear a military uniform and escorted me downstairs. When I reached the ground floor, my hands were cuffed at the back.[He mentioned that he was weeping because he was terrified by the actions of the officials.] Then I was blindfolded and taken to a vehicle. An official said that they would take me to see Allah, no one could help me and my life depended on the officials. I did not know the direction I was taken in. Then I was ordered to get off the vehicle, and an official asked if I would like to leave a message for my family (while I was still dizzy). I said I give up and I will comply with anything as long as the officials spare their lives. I felt an official pressing my head against a cement table, then put a gun to my head. Later I heard gunshots and then the officials laughed. At that time, I could only think about Allah.” (DJ.03.2014)
According to a 26-year-old survivor,
“I heard noises from the next room where officials were interrogating my brother-in-law and younger brother… heard a voice crying, ‘help’ and shouts, sounds of kicking, slapping and punching… I was detained at Ingkayuthaborihan military camp for seven nights. The officials interrogated and attacked me every night for six nights, mostly almost until 4am in the morning. I only had one free night.” (H.14.2014)
4.1.3. Prolonged interrogation
Our documentation indicates that interrogation happens in non-specific ways and for varying times. An interrogation session takes at least two hours. Sometimes it happens in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon, depending on whether a victim has a visit from his relatives or not. Then an evening interrogation session begins from around 8pm, until dawn for some victims, such as one 29-year-old who reported that,
“On 17 March 2015, I was interviewed for my personal history, then they questioned me, conducted a physical examination and tested my DNA until midnight. (I could not sleep since the first day I was arrested.) … During the first seven days I was forced to stand for a long period of time, from 11pm to 7am.” (H.07.2015)
According to a 26-year-old detainee,
“At 2 am on 21November 2013, officials knocked on my door, ordered me to open it, to turn a light on,then come out. They had me lie face down on the ground. On the second day of my detention, officials called me for interrogation at 9am. I was beaten, hit and smacked until noon. I had lunch and prayed. Then at 1pm I was called for another interrogation until 5 pm. I was ordered to spread my arms until they burned. Then I ate and prayed. On the third and fourth day I was not beaten very much. I was threatened that I would be attacked if I did not talk. They used impolite words such as ‘you bastard, call Allah to help you’, until the end of my seven days.” (DJ.13.2015)
Mental torture is capable of damaging the nervous system and one’s personality. Other methods found in interrogation are not mental torture, but with prolonged application of these methods, even more severe harm than mental torture can occur. Thus, those special methods can turn a threat into an act of cruel and inhumane treatment. They include the following.
4.1.4. Sleep deprivation
Sleep disruption and deprivation is a form of torture because it attacks the deep biological functions at the core of a person’s mental and physical health. Despite being less violent in the literal sense, prolonged sleep deprivation is capable of producing very severe effects. The body can naturally adjust its sleep cycle with some flexibility. Therefore, people can go 24 or more hours without sleep in the right circumstances, without any harm. The body can adjust the next sleep to revitalization so the next time they can sleep normally. However, if a person is deprived of sleep for longer than 24 hours, several mental and physical problems begin to develop. The first signs of sleep deprivation are unpleasant feelings, fatigue, irritability, and concentration problems. Then a person will have trouble reading and speaking clearly, poor judgment, lower body temperature, and a significant increase in appetite. If the sleep deprivation continues, the worsening effects include disorientation, visual misperceptions, apathy, severe lethargy, and social withdrawal. In one case documented, a 29-year-old detainee reported,
“On 17 December 2013, I was arrested by officials at 5pm. I was handcuffed and the officials asked if I had planted or made a bomb. I replied that I did not do it. They said I lied and kicked my knees, so that I fell down on them. They interrogated me in a room for an hour from 5 to 6pm. I regained consciousness at Wang Phaya Ranger Unit 41, Raman District, Yala Province at 8pm. Officials called me out at 9pm for interrogation. Ranger interrogators slapped me violently. It was very painful. I was later transferred from Wang Phaya to the Frontal Police Operation Center, then to TaskForce 32 for a night and then back to the Frontal Police Command Center. On the first night, plain-clothed officials wearing black outfits and combat boots beat me at 2.30am. On the second night, I suffered epilepsy and was taken to Yala, where the hospital gave me two epilepsy medicine tablets and I was taken back to rest at the Frontal Police Command Center. On the third night, I was partially conscious and was mumbling in my sleep. The officials continued to bring me to an interrogation room and question me again and again. During the interrogation session, I was seated on a chair, while one of the officials kicked my lower legs. It was very painful. The kicking continued until the end of the questioning session. I was questioned everyday in the morning, midday, afternoon and in the evening from 8 to 11pm for 21 days. The detention at the Frontal Police Command Center leftthe light on all day and night.” (DJ.06.2014)
According to a 32-year-old survivor
“On 7 February 2012 at about 1pm, officials arrived. By 3pm they pointed guns at me. I saw laser pointing dots on my body and chest. The officials received intelligence that I carried a pistol, a .357 rifle and an M16 rifle. At 4pm, they took my father- and mother-in-law, a friend from Malaysia, my wife and my brother-in-law to Special Force Unit 16. All of them were then taken to Tan Toe District Police Station. Officials questioned my father-in-law, sister and bother-in-law. Officials began an interrogation from 3 to 7.30pm. They denied my request to pray and slapped my face with their palms, knocked my head and flicked my ears more than ten times. My body was exhausted and weak. Then the officials said if you confess easily there shall not be a case against you. You will be spared in a witness program. If you do not confess, people in your family will not leave here. They also said, ‘You will surely die,’ if I did not follow their orders. They pushed a barrel of a pistol to my head and slapped me two or three times. From 5.30pm to 3am an official held me at gunpoint to my head. He said, ‘If you confess, I will give you 5000 Baht (USD138). They ordered me to leave for my room with officials escorting me and one of them told me again, ‘You will surely die,’ as he gestured like a gun with his hand in my direction. I lay down and was allowed to rest for five minutes before they escorted me to my wife’s house. I left her house at 5.30am and rested at Special Force Unit 16. They gave me a meal and took me back to Special Force Unit 41. I was interrogated all day during my seven-day detention in the morning, afternoon and middle of the night.” (DJ.09.2014)
Sleep deprivation in the southern border provinces also involves making loud noises at night when victims want to rest. Prolonged detention with noise can have adverse impacts to the body and the mind. Lack of sleep for several days may cause many symptoms, namely, muscle ache, poor eye sight, depression, color blindness, low concentration, lower immunity, dizziness, bags under eyes, fainting, confusion, hallucination, tremor, headache, hernia, agitation, irritability, temper tantrum, memory loss, nausea, mental disorder, slow responses and permanent drowsiness. A 27-year-old interviewee said,
“On 19 March 2014, I was arrested at 6am. They transported me to Special Force Unit 47 at 9am. Interrogation began at 1pm and I slept at 10pm. The second day I was interrogated from 8am to 1pm. I was at the Special Force Unit 47 for six days. Every night there were disturbing noises all night long. I heard a sound of a stick scrapping against the wall, dogs howling in the front of my room, and the light was on all night.” (DJ.15.2014)
4.1.5. Sensory deprivation
Sensory deprivation (Sendep) is the deliberate reduction or removal of stimuli from one or more of the senses. Simple devices such as blindfolds can cut off sight. Short-term sensory deprivation can be relaxing and conducive to meditation; however, extended and forced sensory deprivation can result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, and depression. Common methods include the use of a plastic bag to cover the head, a scarf to blindfold a person while being transported to other places or a hard slap of the palm to one or both ears, can result in either temporary or permanent hearing loss. For example, according to one 26-year-old interviewee,
“On 27 February 2015, military officials kicked my ribs, punched my face, kicked my chest and seated me on a chair… They also turned on a fan to make it cooler. They took off my shirt and covered my head with a plastic bag until I passed out. When I regained my consciousness at about 2pm, the officials ordered me to stand under the sun without wearing shoes. I was told to lift my arms and stand on one leg. The officials twisted my arms. It was painful. I stood for two to three hours. Then interrogation officials took me back for a session. They attacked me, kicked my torso, slapped my face and blindfolded me with a scarf. About four to five officials who appeared to be intoxicated brought a bottle of water in front of me, seated me on a chair, handcuffed my wrists behind my back and covered me to my knees with two sacks of ice. They turned a fan on and then they covered my face with a shirt and poured weird tasting water into my mouth. I did not know what kind of water it was.” (DJ.11.2015)
4.2 Physical torture methods
Physical torture methods either leave or do not leave a visible trace. Most common forms of torture are as follows.
4.2.1. Beatings and physical violence
Among the 54 victims, most had been beaten and subjected to physical violence by hands, feet in combat boots, gun butts and timber wrapped in cloth. The majority of victims suffered physical pain and met a physician in a hospital in a military camp but the causes of injuries or physical traces on victims’ bodies had not been recorded.For instance, a 27-year-old interviewee described the ordeals he suffered as follows:
“On 22 December 2012, while I was in a vehicle with officials, they attacked me physically by slapping me, punching the abdomen and kicking the torso. I was exhausted and weak. The officials took me to a dormitory inside the Special Force Unit 47, which was confined and rectangular. A moment later, officials called me for an interrogation. There were about ten officials in the interrogation room. Two officials conducted the interrogation and the rest attacked me by kicking, slapping and punching my face and torso. I was out of breath from the attack. The interrogation went on until 8.30pm, when they left me alone in the interrogation room until midnight. Another group of about five to seven officials came and asked about the same matter and attacked me by kicking, slapping and punching my face and torso. This time they strangled me until I was suffocating. They demanded that I confess to the matter and then continued to beat and interrogate me until after 4am. Then they released me to the same place I was earlier. The next day at 9am the officials brought me for another interrogation over the same matter until noon. Then, at 4.30pm, the officials also brought me to another interrogation. They kicked, slapped, and punched both ears many times. I was very dizzy and had irregular vertigo, then I fell over.” (H.07.2014)
4.2.2. Oxygen deprivation (see also Drowning, dunking and waterboarding)
Strangulation and suffocation are other methods of physical torture recorded during that data collection that deny oxygen to the detainee, as in the account of a 26-year-old survivor:
“On 19 August 2015, many rangers questioned and attacked me. A ranger asked me (something) then I was attacked before I could answer him. Then the next one asked the next question, but I had not answered and the other rangers kicked my torso, punched my face, kneed my abdomen, strangled me and slapped my face. They did the same for three consecutive days. At night, they attacked me by kicking the torso, punching the face, crushing the chest and my body while I was lying on the floor. They used a cloth-wrapped log to hit my chest, and strangled my neck. I did not know how many times they did it. I felt I could not tolerate it anymore.” (DJ.11.2015)
Plastic garbage bags are used also to suffocate the head of a detainee and deny oxygen. Mental injury from torture of the central nervous control system reduces the process of mental control in various forms. Oxygen deprivation is one method used to disrupt control over one’s mental capacity, so that a victim will follow orders, become unaware of and violate his ethics, spiritual values, principles and wishes. According to a 29-year-old former detainee,
“On 17 March 2015… I was ordered to take my shirt off and stayed in an air-conditioned room, then the officials dumped cold water over me, slapped my face four to five times. I spent seven days at Ingkayuthaborihan military camp, after the first seven days under Martial Law warrant, the detention was extended under the Emergency Decree. On the third day, at about midnight officials ordered me to take my shirt off [again]. They tied my wrists behind the back, blindfolded me and kicked me from a chair. There were about five officials, one held my head, and others held both legs and the torso. They covered my face with a towel and dumped water on my face, squeezed my nose four to five times and forced me to lie on my stomach, dunking me into the water container. They punched my abdomen many times and kicked me. They pulled me up and removed the blindfold and the tie. Then they turned on the air-conditioner and dumped water on me. I was also kicked, punched and slapped. They covered my head with a black plastic bag. The officials tortured me for three to four days, then interrogated and threatened me on a regular basis. I was at the Ingkayuthaborihan military camp for 28 days.” (H.07.2015)
Crushing occurs during an arrest, transportation, interrogation and questioning sessions. Officials often wear combat boots while crushing, thus, the pain can even be more aggravated. Some victims reported that they were crushed on the head, the back or the genital area. According to one 28-year-old survivor,
“Late September 2010, in Ramadan [the fasting month], while I was napping in a relative’s house in Saiburi District, joint operation forces, composed of the military, police and administrative officials arrived in more than seven trucks. At the time, I was alone in the house so I answered the door. The officials grabbed me and handcuffed my wrists behind the back. They ordered me to lead an official who escorted me at gunpoint behind the house. Another five officials walked after me. They had shields in one hand and a ready to fire rifle in the other. They directed me to a rubber plantation at the back of the house and ordered me to kneel. Then ten officials surrounded me in a circle and pointed their rifles at me. I was terrified that they would kill me. Then two to three officials jointly kicked me on the abdomen and the back, while cursing me non-stop. Some officials punched me with fists on the abdomen and the back. The cursed me as southern insurgent. An official pinned me to the ground and crushed my head three times with his feet.” (H.08.2014)
A 26-year-old survivor said,
“On 27 February 2015 four to five officials pushed me down to lie on my stomach and crushed my chest and my genitals under their feet. When I could not bear it any longer, I said I would confess. It was about 3am in the morning. The brought me some coffee and escorted me to my room. I could not walk and stumbled and could not breathe, so the officials massaged my chest and took me for a medical examination at Ingkayuthaborihan military hospital. I told a doctor at the hospital I was tortured and there were wounds. However, I was not certain if the military doctor would record that I was tortured” (DJ.11.2015)
4.2.4. Drowning, dunking and waterboarding
In classic water torture, victims are bound while hot or cold water is poured over a body part, mostly on the forehead.This method can exert tremendous pressure on victims because the torturers will pour water over a victim while clothed or naked. The torture is painful when it is done in a low temperature room. This method does not leave any traces.
Waterboarding is a form of torture in which water is poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilized victim, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning. Waterboarding can cause extreme pain similar to drowning, damage to lungs, and may cause brain damage from oxygen deprivation. Other physical injuries include broken bones due to struggling against restraints. Waterboarding can cause lasting psychological damage, and death. Negative physical consequences can manifest themselves within a month after the event, while psychological effects can last for over a year.
In the most common method of waterboarding, the victim’s face is covered with cloth or some other thin material, and the victim is immobilized on their back at an incline of 10 to 20 degrees. Torturers pour water onto the face over the breathing passages, causing an almost immediate gag reflex and creating a drowning sensation for the victims. Vomitus travels up the esophagus, which may then be inhaled. Victims of waterboarding are at extreme risk of sudden death due to the aspiration of vomitus.According to a 35-year-old interviewee,
“On 29 February 2007, during an interrogation session, an official assaulted me by kicking, punching, slapping, threatening me with guns and that he would kill me if I did not confess. Seven officials interrogated and assaulted me until 6.30pm. While they were questioning me, they also assaulted me by kicking, slapping and punching. Three out of seven officials took me to a fishpond in the Special Force compound, and then they dunked me in the pond. My head was submerged in the water. The water got into my nose and ears. They did repeatedly. I was exhausted and weak. Then they interrogated while they kept assaulting me. I denied every charge. I was interrogated until 4am in the morning.” (H.03.2014)
A 33-year-old survivor reported,
“On 30 March 2007 three officials took me to an interrogation center. They kicked my chest for a confession. I had to wait in a cold room, so I slept. Then officials came and banged a table, so I got up. They kicked my chest until the chair and I fell over. They continued kicking my torso and ordered me to strip naked. The other group of officials forced me to sign a document… but I refused because I thought it was weird. Then the officials became angry. They used a rubber hammer to hit various joints on my torso, submerged my head in a drinking water cooler, put a wet garbage bag over me, forced me to crawl naked and cry like an ox, hit rubber bands on my genitals, slapped my ears until I had a tinnitus.” (DJ.03.2014)
4.2.5. Temperature extremes
Exposure to heat or cold can result in harmful physical and psychological consequences. Exposure to heat for extended periods can result in dehydration, in confusion, lethargy, and loss of consciousness. Individuals exposed too long to extremes of heat can suffer hyperthermia, where the core body temperature can go up and can be potentially fatal. Exposure to extremes of cold can result in harmful physical and mental consequences, such as hypothermia, leading to a decrease in the body’s core temperature, which can result in arrhythmias, irregular heartbeats or even potentially death. People exposed to extremes of heat or cold are reminded of the experiences months or even years later: when they think about it, they have terrifying memories. Thus, the impact of exposure to heat and cold is both physical and psychological. A 27-year-old interviewee said,
“On 19 August 2013, officials escorted me to an interrogation room. The temperature there was very low, very near freezing. They were asking the same matters and pressured me to confess. Officials spent nearly four hours in that room. I had a pain from a previous wound on the spine. Three officials questioned me three consecutive nights at the same time and with the same use of air-conditioner” (H.10.2014)
A 41-year-old told us,
“In 2007, officials interrogated me from 9pm to 5am. There were three officials, taking turns to question me in a session. Interrogations were conducted in extremely low temperatures, with an order to strip, to be naked and to stand on one leg. The officials used psychologically degrading terms and insulted my religion. They poked my chest and gestured that they would throw an ashtray into my face. The interrogations lasted for seven days.” (H.12.2014)
A 30-year-old interviewee said,
“On 26December 2013, I was dragged to a dimly lit area and kicked with combat boots up to five times. They escorted and monitored me even when I went to toilet. They did not allow me to change my sarong, which I was wearing since the first day to the seventh day, and did not allow me to do daily prayers. They all punched, smacked my head and nape of my neck, till I felt like I wanted to retaliate. They used plastic cable ties to bind my wrists at the back and seated me on a chair. I was kicked down from the chair. They did not let me shower and even made me lie face down under the sun from 10am to 2pm. I was assaulted in the same manner from early in the evening till dawn every day for seven days.” (DJ.12.2014)
Flagellation occurs when a victim is arrested, transported and questioned while beinghit with firearms or timber covered with a cloth, to prevent any trace after flagellation. Victims reported being hit on the head, torso and both legs. The majority of victims in this report experienced forms of flagellation. By way of just one example, a 30-year-old former detainee told us,
“I was transferred to a prison. A prison official checked my case so they knew that I was indicted on treason and security charges. They took me to a place where no one was and hit me with a baton on the back two times and the front two times. At that time, I was not wearing any shirt and only had my sarong on. I was taken to a medical room to recuperate there for about two hour. In the prison I was giving a medicine to treat my bruises. Now I have recurring chest pain and tinnitus from time to time.” (DJ.02.2014)
4.2.7. Foot roasting
Officials may scald or roast the feet of a detainee by forcing him to run, walk or stand on sunburned pavement. According to one 30-year-old detainee,
“On 13 April 2014, while I was at Ingkayuthaborihan military camp, officials crushed my shoulders and threatened me to tell all information. On the second day, I said I did not know what made the officials furious. They attacked me and slapped my face. My mouth bled. They kicked my thighs twice. They ordered me to perform sit-ups 50-100 times, squats around 200-300 times, to walk or run barefoot on a scalding concrete road during daytime until my feet blistered from the heat on concrete. They changed the interrogation place all the time. Sometimes they used a room, at the center or under a tree. Interrogations also happened at night from 8.30-10.30pm. I was consecutively assaulted for a week. The officials gave me muscle relaxant medication and ointment after they ordered me to do sit-ups and squats.” (DJ.10.2014)
4.2.8. Electric shocks
Electric shock is a method to cause electric current to pass through the body. It occurs when the electric current from a source of electricity contacts a part of the body through the skin, muscles or hair. Very small currents can be imperceptible. Higher current passing through the body may not be possible to cause electrical shocks to a victim. Nevertheless, larger currents can cause fibrillation of the heart and damage to tissues. Death caused by an electric shock is a form of electrocution. Victims of electrocution who survive may exhibit bizarre symptoms and physical pain. According to one 28-year-old survivor,
“On 11 January 2015, I was seated and handcuffed on a chair. Officials kicked the chair until the chair and I fell down… On the second and third day, they poked me with a hot iron rod once. They blindfolded me and beat me. They also threaten to shoot me, while an official showed me a pistol and pretended that he would shoot me to obtain a confession. On the fourth day I was electrocuted while being blindfolded. I felt the pain at the testicles but being blindfolded, I did not know what they were doing. They groped, pulled, and squeezed my genitals. I became frigid (my genitals are still contracted). I was stripped naked in a low temperature room before female officials and a female official pressed her breasts on my face. After many beatings, I had blood in my vomit, urine and stool, and my chest was bruised, red and swollen. Officials took me to a hospital where a doctor administered one injection and gave paracetamol. I passed out and loss consciousness for a day. I confessed on the fourth day because I was electrocuted.” (DJ.07.2015)
4.2.9. Forced eating or drinking
Forced eating or drinking is a rare form of ill treatment used for detainees under the special laws in the southern border provinces. There are cases of forcing victims to eat or drink forbidden food or beverages according to Islamic principles. Thus, according to a 30-year-old interviewee,
“On 13 September 2006, I was asked by officials to have a meal. They took me to a Thai restaurant and asked me what I like to eat. An official forced me to drink alcohol, saying, if I did not drink, he would not know what to do with me. He said that if I did not drink I would have to go without any food.” (DJ.02.2014)
Additionally, detainees who refuse to eat meals arranged by the facilities may be forced to do so, but through conventional ways rather than the force-feeding used in Israel or at the Guantanamo Detention facility, where a feeding catheter is inserted through the nose.
In some cases, officials deliberately target the detainee’s knees, kicking them or hitting them with objects like rubber mallets. According to a 28-year-old interviewee,
“On 11 January 2015, I walked out on a road, then an official kicked me heavily. I lost my balance and fell. They kicked me and slapped my head, then tossed me inside a vehicle. An official pressed his foot on my cuffed wrists and said ‘you die’. Officials crushed my back. If I moved, they increased the pressure. They threatened that I would die. I was seated and handcuffed on a chair. Officials kicked the chair until the chair and I fell down. They punched me in the stomach, legs, and calves for four days. They also kicked my kneecaps, countlessly punched my abdomen, and smacked my head, and nape of my neck several times. I was handcuffed behind the back. After I had been beaten for many days, I was vomiting blood, and had blood in my urine and stool. My chest was bruised, red and swollen. Officials took me to a hospital. When I prepared to show my wounds, officials then ordered me to leave. A doctor administered one injection and gave paracetamol. I passed out and lost consciousness for a day. Military officials had me sign a document, and then the police did also. I told them I wanted to read what the document was but they refused. When I did not sign it, they kicked my chest, punched my back, slapped my head down and kicked my back again several times, so I finally signed.” (DJ.07.2015)
4.2.11. Sexual assault
Sexual assault starts from forced nudity. A person forced to strip naked feels helpless and hopeless. Nudity enhances the psychological terror of every aspect of torture, because of the potential of abuse or rape. Furthermore, verbal sexual threats, abuse and mocking are also part of sexual torture, as they enhance the humiliation to victims. In many instances sexual assault is psychological as well as physical. Psychological harms can be most injurious. For men, those inflicting the torture may also cause the victim to become impotent or sterile, either actual or perceived. In the southern border provinces, sexual assaults involve nudity, attacking genitalia and electric shocks of the genitals. According to one 32-year-old survivor,
“In April 2015 I was called to Task Force 22. I went with my sister at 9am. They asked me a number of questions about my family till 6pm. At 7pm I was transferred to Ingkhayuthaborihan Camp. On the fourth day of interrogation, there were six officers in the room telling me to confess and saying that they knew my friend is an insurgent. I did not confess so they told me to take off my shirt. I did not confess. They told me to take off my pants and told me to sit and stand 10 times.” (DJ.14.2015)
A 39-year-old interviewee told us,
“On 20 October 2011, officials took me under custody to the Ingkayuthaborihan military camp, Bo Thong District, Pattani Province at about 4.30am. They asked where I had kept two guns. I said I did not know anything about the guns. When I replied that, the officials crushed my chest, slapped and hit my face many times. They also kicked my shoulders violently. Everyday, officials questioned me about the lost guns. During the five days that I was there, I was slapped and hit on my face every day when I denied knowledge of the guns. Some days, military officials ordered me to be naked, detained me in a room or ordered me to perform squats until I was extremely exhausted. I was detained for 26 days. I was slapped on my face, nose, and chest. They kept me in a low temperature room for 23 days. My body was shivering and cold. They squeezed my genitals harshly for five minutes. They told me I was stupid and I had been duped. They also threatened to kill me.” (H.03.2015)
4.2.12. Stress positions
Stress position torture involves forcing a person into a position that will be physically painful. Stress positions may cause long term or severe damages to the nervous system, joints, circulation and muscles. Mentally, they cause powerful humiliation and feelings of being out of control of oneself. Stress positions can cause pain or a feeling of being punished. For example, when ordered to shake one’s hands over the head, a victim may feel a strong resistance and self-loathing for not following an order.One 29-year-old said
“On 14 October 2014, during interrogation, I was punched, kicked, and slapped on my chest, abdomen and head 15 times, while I was lying down. I had bruises, I felt numb, exhausted and I lost conscious. I was forced to sit in a chair position [without a chair] two to three times for two to three minutes at a time. Thus, my limbs felt exhausted and numb all the time. I was detained in a cold place for four hours until I felt chest pain. They pushed a barrel of a gun into my mouth once or twice for two-three minutes each time while I was sitting on a chair, thus I had a wound in my mouth and could not eat. When I was arrested, they took my clothes off and I was forced to remain naked for four hours while I was sitting and standing on a chair. The interrogation involved extracting my confession for torching a school.” (H.02.2015)
A 42-year-old torture survivor informed us that
“On 17 October 2014 during interrogation I was hit by a chair till the chair was broken. For one day and one night I was told to sit and stand for a long time while my hands were tied at the back. I was naked and told to stand looking downwards for one day.” (H.04.2015)
4.2.13. Water cure
Water cure is a form of torture in which a victim is forced to drink a large amount of water during a short period of time, causing stomach gas and swelling, Excessive water in the body also can cause poisoning and may be life-threatening. A 26-year-old who experienced this technique said,
“On 27 February 2015, officials tied me to a chair, covered my face with a shirt and poured water into my mouth. They turned the fan on, took a shirt off from my head and suffocated me with plastic bags until I passed out. After I had regained consciousness, I struggled, so my hand ties were broken. They put new ones on. I could not breathe. They kept pouring water over my mouth until I was choking… They ordered me to drink two bottles of water.” (DJ.11.2015)
A 36-year-old survivor informed,
“On 22 March 2015, officials took me under custody and transported me to Special Force Unit 41 (Wang Phaya Special Force Unit) in Yala Province. At 8pm, the officials questioned and threatened me many times until dawn but I denied all accusations. Then at 10pm, they beat me without any questioning. They pushed me down to lie in a supine position and crushed my neck violently with their hands. After that they force-fed me water and turned my body around many times. At 2.30am I passed out. They pulled me up, sat me on a chair and threatened that they would be ten times more violent if I still denied it but I still denied it and said I did not know anyway.” (H.05.2015)
5. Effects of torture
5.1. Physical effects
Some observations of survivors on the physical damage caused to them include the following:
“I coughed blood and it was painful. I have bruises. My wrists havemarks from handcuffs.” (DJ.02.2014)
“I could not see properly and my tooth was broken after being pressed so hard with the gun. I was unconscious then.” (DJ.06.2014)
“The symptoms still persist. I have big lumps on my neck.” (DJ.08.2014)
“My mouth bled. My feet blistered from the heat on the concrete… My body constantly ached from performing sit-ups and squats, that I had to use muscle relaxant.” (DJ.10.2014)
“I have a scar on my hip. My eye was bleeding. My legs were also hurting. I was unconscious many times. The room was too cold and dark, there was no space in the room and I could not breathe. My chest was numb and hurt.” (DJ.11.2014)
“I cannot use my hands for heavy work. They are always painful. I have chest pain and I went to a prison hospital for a treatment.” (DJ.14.2014)
“My lips were bleeding, my chest was extremely painful. An official hit me with the handle of a gun and the right side of my face was bleeding.” (DJ.15.2014)
“Frigidity (genitals are still contracted).” (DJ.07.2015)
“Throat inflammation. I could not swallow my saliva because it was painful.” (H.05.2014)
“Genital pain.” (H.04.2015)
5.2. Psychological effects
In the study of Daniel Kramer entitled “The Effects of Psychological Torture”, (2010), Professor Almerindo Ojeda explained that the psychological effects of physical and psychological torture resulted in mental damage such as anxiety, depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Importantly, the state of the brain is no longer the same as before the torture. In this regard, the victims of torture in the deep southern provinces of Thailand are not different from others elsewhere. According to our findings, the main signs of psychological effects on the victims are as follows.
5.2.1. Effects on individuals tortured
Those who have experienced torture often have a common thought “that no one understands me except myself”. They try to avoid meeting others and won’t trust other persons. Fear of painful memories causes behavioral change, which might bring about problems of social interaction. The victims have nightmares, a feeling of being haunted, and are always able to recall the bad time of detention; are stressed, worried and anxious all the time; hurt and depressed; want to be alone, are unwilling to see others, are discouraged, hopeless, always worried and afraid to have same bad experiences; have poor concentration, and suffer Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
In group therapy (see section below) victims of torture in the deep south of Thailand related that their problems included:
1. A feeling that others in society hate them
2. Fear of assassination
3. Inability to take good care of their families
6. Fear and desire to flee when the military comes to visit them at home
7. Decision-making potentiality reduced; inability to answer or respond promptly
8. Frustration at inability to think clearly and come up with answers
9. Distrust of others
10. Hesitancy to join social gatherings or interact with others
11. Fear of surveillance if they return to perform their roles in society
Where victims are always worried it is a sign of trauma, which is not congenital disorder but is caused by a serious physical attack that then affects the mental state and results in changes of victims’ mentality and behavior. Torture results in a loss of feeling of self-control, weakness and helplessness. Side effects that affect the physical and psychological health of the person include stress which makes the muscles painful and strained, make the person tired, slow-thinking, not lively, dull, moody and dizzy all the time. All these effects are due to the physicality of torture. During the assault, the victims want to respond and also to run away. But since the victims couldn’t do either, then they feel exhausted and suffer a loss of control over their bodies.
In a study commissioned by the CrCF based on 79 cases of torture in the deep south of Thailand, Professor David W. Engstrom from San Diego State University and a coauthor concluded that based on preliminary findings “there was significant psychological distress resulting from torture experiences and that this distress also tended to persist over many years”. The analysis and findings are contained in a supplement at the end of this report.
When asked in interviews about their current circumstances, some of the interviewees replied:
“Stressed, depressed, don’t want to talk with anyone… don’t want to be with anyone but want to be alone.” (DJ.04.2014)
“Stress and anxiety! Why was I arrested again and again for something I hadn’t done? I am angry that I didn’t get justice from the state. Bad experiences and ill feeling cannot be removed but I have to tolerate them as much as possible.” (DJ.10.2014)
“I was angry when I was arrested. That’s painful. They did everything against me with whatever equipment at hand. I felt pain all over my body. I felt it was like the end of my life. I tried to fight for survival but it was really hard. But when I was released, I felt uneasy and skeptical. I had to be alert and be aware all the time. I feel anxiety all the time. I am afraid to see officials when I drive a car. I try my best to avoid seeing any officials.” (DJ.10.2015)
“At first, when I was arrested, I was so anxious, especially worried about my children, wife and family members. How were they going to live when I was not around? I was no longer able to protect them when I was tortured. I was fed up and felt hopeless with the violent interrogation. They treated me just like I was an animal. They hurt me badly. Sometimes, I just suddenly felt I wanted revenge. Sometimes, I was nervous and could not sleep. After a while, I got used to it. But this does not mean that we can let it go. These bad officials need to be brought to justice for their misbehavior and torture of the victims.” (H.01.2014)
5.2.2. How the families of the victims cope
The psychological effects are felt on the wives, children and family members because the victims would feel uneasy, and suddenly angry when there is stimulation that might bring about the violence in the family. One respondent said he was aware of the effects on his family:
“I was so angry because I didn’t do what I was accused of. I feel I am a scapegoat. I am so worried about my family, my dad, mom, my children and wife and how they are going to live [with me like this]. I was so angry since neither I nor my relatives did anything wrong.” (DJ.07.2014)
In group therapy, victims’ wives observed that after their release from detention their husbands tended to be in a bad mood and emotional; not take care of their health and fixate on work; became violent, beating their kids whenever nervous; and, would not associate with anyone. Other things that might cause them to change mood and behavior could include dark places, or a particular colour, like khaki green, which would remind them of the military. Some concentrated too much on certain things; some felt exhaustion and weakness all the time, while some could sleep deeply but often woke up frightened. Some couldn’t make a decision within a limited time.
These kinds of behavioral changes affect the physical and psychological aspects of the families of the victims as well. When the dignity of the victim is deprived, then the victim might do the same to others.
5.2.3. Impact on national and state security
Many people might not understand how torture will affect national and state security. The torturers are representatives of state agencies. When the victims of torture get angry, then they may want to take revenge against the state or look at state agents negatively. So, the credibility of the state is reduced. It is challenged and mistrusted. Questions may be raised over the credibility of the legal system or the justice system. At the end, it might bring about a violent confrontation. When asked about their feelings about what had happened to them, interviewees replied:
“I feel very angry. I want to fight back. There is no hope for the officials who didn’t stop those who committed the crime of torture.” (DJ.01.2015)
“I felt angry about the officials who treated us badly and inflicted pain on us. They treated us just like we are objects. I have never done anything bad to others. I felt inferior, born as a Malayu in Pattani whose rights and dignity are being ignored and undermined all the time. I am still anxious even now. I can still remember almost everything, every step the bad officials have done to us, those images are still haunting me until now.” (H.02.2014)
“I really feel painful at this time and want to take revenge against the state officials. I have no trust and no confidence towards the government officials in the area. I feel unsafe for my life and property. Officials who came to look around in these areas are really meaningless and useless.” (H.04.2014)
“I am very angry. I am so skeptical about the officials and will never trust them any longer.” (H.06.2014)
“Other people looked at us as terrorists in the three deep southern provinces. So how can we live in this society, then? We are still angry over the officials who are so cruel and inhuman towards us. We are also worried when thinking about what happened to us and our friends in the past.” (H.13.2014)
“I’m so angry about the government officials. I feel sorry about what had happened. I never thought that we got the same treatment as others even though I hadn’t committed any crime.” (H.14.2014)
6. Prosecuting torturers
There are number of complaints of torture arising from the situation of unrest in the deep southern provinces of Thailand that have gone to court. However, not a single case has been recorded where officials suspected of inflicting torture have been imprisoned.
In only one case, where the Pattani Military Prosecutors office filed a case against Sergeant Major Kwanchai Srinil in the Military Court, for physical assaulting a 14-year-old boy called Adil Samae from the province, and Masaofi Kwaenboo, aged 20, did the Military Court on 26 April 2010 sentence the defendant to one-year imprisonment and fined him 4,000 Baht (USD110). Since the defendant confessed to the crime during the hearing, the court reduced the sentence to a 6-month imprisonment and 2,000 Baht fine. However, as the defendant did not have any prior convictions and behaved well during the trial process, then the court ordered the suspension of punishment for two years.
[Editorial note: Following the release of the original report on torture in the deep south in January 2016, on 18 May 2016 the Supreme Administrative Court of Songkla, which is not a criminal court but a civilian administrative court that can issue orders of financial restitution,ordered the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) to pay 101, 200 Baht and 100,000 Baht to the two victims in this case, with interest, coming to around USD5000 per victim. The civil case filed with Songkhla Administrative Court sought that the defense ministry, the army, and ISOC compensate the victims for the harm caused by the soldiers in their line of duty. See further below, on financial compensation.]
7. Victims’ reparations and recovery
Work for the reparation and recovery of torture survivors in Thailand is still at an initial stage. CrCF, Duayjai and HAP are trying to set up a joint project to build a Rehabilitation Center for the Victims of Torture. The effort has started by inviting experts from abroad, both psychologists and psychiatrists who are experienced in medical and psycho-social remedies, to help the victims to recover from severe mental trauma caused by torture.
In order to work for the safety of the victims of torture, the requirements are:
• Working openly
• Creating social awareness
• Building up the networks of victim families in the community
• Offering both physical and mental remedies together.
• Paying attention to social, economic and psychological needs all together
Specific methods and means of remedies include the following.
7.1. Group psychotherapy
Group psychotherapy applies a well-planned group dynamic, by a special professional team. This group dynamic emphasizes conversation and exchange of views and ideas as well as some suggestions and recommendations for further improvement, attitudinal change and resolving the problems of the group members. The main concept of the group psychotherapy is peer-to-peer consultation, mutual help, building trust among the group members, relaxing from stress, resolving internal matters and overcoming the obstacles of the group members. Group psychotherapy also aims to share concerns and learn how to apply appropriate psychological mechanisms correctly. Group members also learn how to manage their emotions, proper expression, build up good relationships within the group, uplift and regain their self esteem, and develop an understanding of oneself.
7.2. Movement therapy
In the area of psychological therapy, H2H, a specialized organization, proposes movement therapy to improve the movement, balance, strength and flexibility of victims, strengthen the muscles, improve joint and muscle flexibility, improve blood circulation, protect injuries, etc. Movement therapy is also good for practicing meditation, managing emotional balance, appetite, and anxiety. It is also good for attitude and emotional adjustment.Movement therapy is reported to enhance self-respect and reflection and build up communication capacity and a higher level of tolerance.
7.3. Challenges for the rehabilitation of victims of torture in Thailand
1. Victims of torture do not yet have confidence in the institutions that provide remedies (rehabilitation centers) and are unwilling to join programs. Many victims insist that they are still normal.
2. Lack of rehabilitation experts for both physical and mental health for the victims of torture.
3. Lack of rehabilitation centers for victims of torture.
4. Lack of physicians/medical experts and increasing costs associated with treatment.
5. The opportunity to hold meetings between medical experts and medical doctors at provincial levels for further collaboration is lacking.
8. Financial compensation
In most cases, survivors or relatives of victims who died from torture can only hope to receive a financial remedy after administrative court orders. It is quite difficult to get compensation for torture unless there is clear physical evidence that has been investigated and reported by medical experts. In cases where death has occurred there may be some signs of torture that might have occured during the detention (or under custody) of the officials, and these cases may be more successful, although they do not lead to criminal prosecutions. One example is the case of Imam Yapa Kaseng. After some compensation was paid, further legal action was terminated.
[Editorial note: This case is discussed in an article by Nick Cheesman, Bina D’Costa and Tyrell Haberkorn, ‘Anticipating the struggle against everyday impunity in Myanmar through accounts from Bangladesh and Thailand’, available for free download from the website of Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, vol. 3, no. 1,
pp. 45–58. Tyrell Haberkorn discusses the case at greater length in ‘When torture is a duty: The murder of Imam Yapa Kaseng and the challenge of accountability in Thailand’, published in Asian Studies Review, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 53-68.]
In another case of a victim named Asa-aree, Ms. Bae-doh Sama-ae, the plaintiff, filed the case in the Songkla Administrative Court seeking to recover damages from defense ministry, the army and the Office of the Prime Minister due to the fact that the offenders are the officials representing these offices and they had caused damage to the victim during their operation by exercising power under Martial Law to detain the son of the plaintiff and company. The officials had allegedly tortured and beaten the victims to death during their detention. The Supreme Administrative Court ordered the Office of the Prime Minister to pay the restitution to the plaintiff with the amount of 534,301 Baht (approximately USD14,750) with interest. The other three respondents were exempt from making payments.
Other cases include the following.
8.1. Rayu Dorkor’s Case
On 20 January 2015 the Supreme Administrative Court opened the first hearing of the Undecided Case 39 No. O. 464/2555, the case of Mr. Rayu Dorkor (plaintiff) v. Ministry of Defense / Royal Armed Forces / National Police Office/ Office of the Prime Minister (respondents) on the violation committed by administrative agencies or their state officials while exercising their legal authority.
In this case there had been assaults and serious harm inflicted on the plaintiff physically and mentally when he was only 18 years old. He was also forced to be in the same prison together with adult detainees. There were medical check-up reports from both military hospital (Inkayuthaborihan Camp Hospital) and international agency (International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims – IRCT). The judge formed the view that the Office of the Prime Minister as the agency supervising ISOC should pay compensation to the plaintiff as physical, health, psychological and civil liberty damages, as well as restitution for the damage to reputation and dignity from a press conference called against the victim affecting his income from employment to the total amount of 233,036 Baht (around USD6430) with interest.
8.2. Mr. Isma-al Tae’s Case
On 13 January 2015, the Supreme Administrative Court opened the first hearing in the case of Mr. Isma-al Tae and Mr, Armesi Manak (plaintiffs) v. Royal Thai Armed Forces and Ministry of Defense (respondents) for exercising their authority in accordance with the Martial Law Act B.E. 2457 (1913) as compensation for detaining the university students of Yala Rajabhat University. Earlier, the Songkhla Administrative Court ordered the army to pay damages for torture, setting compensation for the affected personsas per the Compensation Act and the Ministerial Rules, as the standard in calculating the amount of compensation. If so, the plaintiffs would get only 45,400 Baht (about USD1250) each. But the Songkhla Administrative Court ordered compensation of 255,000 Baht and 250,000 Baht respectively, including medical fees and rehabilitation costs of 30,000 Baht each; reparations of 15,000 Baht each; and loss of daily income at 200 Baht per day.
In sum, although compensation amounts are increasing the record of cases in Thailand’s courts so far is one of failure to deal with the phenomenon of torture:
• Failure to bring perpetrators to justice;
• Failure to provide adequate reparation to the victims of torture;
• Failure to adequately compensate those who have lost the opportunity to earn income; and,
• Failure to issue orders for provision of psychological remedies and rehabilitation at the state expense.
9. Preventing torture
To prevent torture in Thailand, the following changes must be made to laws and practices.
1. Lift the Martial Law Act B.E. 2457 (1903), Administrative Decree on the State of Emergency, and other provisions that enable officials to commit torture;
2. Enact laws consistent with the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which requires the State Party to make torture a crime; and,
3. Amend laws, orders and regulations that undermine efforts to prevent torture, such as the rule preventing detainees from meeting their relatives and lawyers; and laws and orders posing obstacles to the forwarding of cases to the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) or the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) for investigation, for instance.
1. Instruct officials at all levels related to the control and detention of suspects in universal human rights principles especially CAT;
2. Facilitate rapid and transparent judicial investigations into places of detention wherever cases of torture are reported;
3. Change the procedures concerning visits to prisons and detention centers so that officials cannot interfere with conversations between visitors and detainees or stay too close to private meetings between detainees and their relatives;
4. Permit visits by credible agencies to places of detention whenever complaints of torture are received, so as to collect information and seek to reassure that the victims will not be tortured again; and,
5. Promote independent and credible forensic scientific/forensic medical institutions to be available and accessible promptly and free of charge for medical check-up, autopsy/ post-mortem examination, and examine any other physical or forensic evidence/ materials related to cases of torture.