Kritsuda Khunasen

Thai red shirt activist Kritsuda Khunasem during on YouTube interview, in which she accuses the Thai military junta of torture during her detainment in June 2014. (Screenshot: YouTube)

The Thai Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Red Shirt activist Kritsuda Khunasen, who recently claimed she was tortured while in military custody. Kritsuda is accused of possession of illegal war weapons and carrying arms in public without reasonable cause, the Bangkok Post reported. The court issued warrants for two others, Mananchaya Ketkaeo and Somsak Poolsawat, as well.

Police suspect Kritsuda and slain poet activist Mai Nueng Kor Kunthee “were involved in acquiring weapons for violent purposes during the recent political demonstrations,” according to the Bangkok Post.

For more on Mananchaya and the link between him and Kritsuda, see this piece from Prachatai.

Kritsuda was detained by the army in late May, days after the military took over the country in a coup. She was held by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) for nearly a month, with no information given on her condition or whereabouts for weeks despite outcry from human rights groups. By law, the military can detain individuals for up to seven days, but Kritsuda’s detention far exceeded that.

Kritsuda was released June 24 and appeared on national television alongside her boyfriend, also an activist, one day before her release. She told the nation her treatment in detention was “too good for words to say,” but recently backtracked on those comments, saying they were made under duress. Kritsuda appears in a YouTube video recounting being suffocated with a bag over her head, and claims she was forced to sign a statement saying she requested to remain in the army’s custody longer than the standard detention period. For further details, see this piece from Saksith Saiyasombut.

Kritsuda said she and her boyfriend, who she claims was also tortured, are now in Europe and plan to seek political asylum. But deputy national police chief Pol Gen Somyot Phumpanmuang has said the police will pursue extradition if possible, according to the Bangkok Post.

Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists called on the Thai government to investigate Kritsuda’s torture claims immediately.

“Only by promptly investigating Kritsuda’s allegations and prosecuting those responsible can the junta undo its knee-jerk denial of her serious charges,” HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams said in a statement.

The organization noted that Col. Winthai Suvaree, spokesman for the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said “‘Kritsuda was not mistreated while in military custody,’ and that her allegations were ‘groundless without any supporting evidence.'” HRW also reported that Deputy National Police chief Somyot Phumpanmuang said police would look into whether the circulation of Kritsuda’s YouTube video broke any Thai laws.

The Chiangrai Times reported the following:

“Army spokesperson Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumner said he met Kritsuda in detention and she was not ‘tortured or beaten as she says’, adding he tried to convince her to ‘be patriotic and stop conflict’ between political rivals. ‘Was I wrong to do that?’ he added.”

The ICJ issued a statement from Secretary General Wilder Tayler saying, “Kritsuda’s allegations that she was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment as well as arbitrary detention by military officers are deeply concerning and require an immediate investigation. Her account, if verified, suggests that she is the victim of serious human rights violations which require that the perpetrators be held responsible and that she be provided with an effective remedy and reparation.”

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has also reportedly expressed concerns about human rights violations under the military government. The NCPO has repeatedly said no detainees have been tortured and that the government is committed to addressing human rights abuses occurring in Thailand.

On the possibility of Kritsuda returning to her home country, Prachatai quoted her as saying, “I’ve got lots of trouble already. If you want me to continue living in Thailand . . . I just can’t.”