Why was Thai red shirt activist Kritsuda detained for so long?
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Why was Thai red shirt activist Kritsuda detained for so long?

As Saksith has already blogged (see that post for the background) red shirt activist Kritsuda Khunasen has accused the Thai military of torturing her, but this post will focus on the Thai military explanations for her detention.

HRW on June 10:

On the evening of May 28, 2014, soldiers from the 14th Military Circle arrested Kritsuda Khunasen, 27, during a raid of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the Red Shirts, in Chonburi province’s Muang district. Since then, according to her family, local military commanders have refused to provide information on her whereabouts or access to lawyers and family members.

HRW with some background on June 18:

The Thai military authorities should immediately provide information about the whereabouts of an opposition activist arrested by soldiers on May 28, 2014, Human Rights Watch said today. Instead of revealing her place of detention, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) military junta included her name on a June 17 list of people summoned to report to the authorities by June 18 or face arrest.

Soldiers arrested Kritsuda Khunasen, 27, on May 28 in Chonburi province, but the military authorities have declined to disclose any information about her detention or provide any evidence that she has been released, raising grave concerns for her safety. Instead, the military has denied any knowledge of her whereabouts despite television footage showing that she was arrested and taken away by soldiers from the 14th Military Circle.

“The Thai military should put to rest fears that Kritsuda has been forcibly disappeared by immediately disclosing her location and allowing access to a doctor and a lawyer,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Concerned governments should demand that Thailand’s military authorities immediately explain what has happened to her and ensure her safety.”

Kritsuda is a well-known activist with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as the Red Shirts. She has been instrumental in a campaign to provide legal and humanitarian assistance to UDD members and supporters affected by political violence that took place in 2010.

Since Kritsuda’s arrest, her family and Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have tried unsuccessfully to locate her. Human Rights Watch has publicly raised concerns about Kritsuda’s safety and other secret military detentions.

Kritsuda has already been held two weeks longer than the seven-day period of administrative detention permitted under the 1949 Martial Law Act, which the military invoked after carrying out its coup on May 22, 2014.

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the permanent secretary of the Thai Foreign Ministry, told the United Nations Human Rights Council on June 12 that most of the people summoned by the military authorities had already been released, and that no one had been held for more than a week. The NCPO has contended that incommunicado detention is necessary to allow detainees to “cool off and adjust their attitude” without disruption from outsiders.

Then in response the Bangkok Post‘s military beat reporter Wassana posted on Facebook on June 20 that:

Kritsuda was detained on May 28 in Chonburi as there was previous behaviour that was suspicious of being contrary to Section 116(2) [of the Criminal Code] and the Computer Crimes Act so it was necessary to investigate and we have received good cooperation (จึงขอชี้แจงว่า เดิม จนท.ทหาร ตำรวจหน่วยปฏิบัติในพื้นที่ ได้ขอควบคุมตัวไปเมื่อวันที่ 28 พ.ค. ที่ผ่านมาที่ จ.ชลบุรี เนื่องจากพฤติกรรมที่ผ่านมา มีลักษณะข่ายต้องสงสัยความผิดตาม ม.116 (2) กับ พรบ.คอมพิวเตอร์ จึงต้องขอควบคุมตัวเพื่อสอบสวนตามขั้นตอน ซึ่งได้ความร่วมมือเป็นอย่างดี).

At that time, the authorities did not press charges. Now, on June 18, the NCPO have invited [her] to report [herself] in order to create a normal understanding (ในครั้งนั้น จนท.ยังไม่ได้มีการตั้งข้อกล่าวหาใดๆ มาปัจจุบันเมื่อวันที่ 18 มิ.ย. 2557 คสช.จึงได้มีประกาศเชิญให้มารายงานตัวตามกระบวนการสร้างความเข้าใจปกติ).

“[I] want to affirm again that she was invited to report [herself]. No actions were taken against that person what were illegal in any way. Everyone can have peace of mind. The process is in accordance with human rights [processes]. If you follow the news, there is no person who has negative feelings towards the care [they have received] from the authorities. No one who is suffering at all. Everyone has an understanding and is happy to give cooperation in accordance with the path of the NCPO” (“ยืนยันอีกครั้งว่าการเชิญรายงานตัว จะไม่ได้ปฏิบัติต่อบุคคลนั้นๆ ในลักษณะผู้มีความผิดแต่อย่างใด ขอให้ทุกฝ่ายสบายใจได้ กระบวนการนี้ยังยึดในหลักสิทธิมนุษยชนเหมือนเดิม ถ้าได้ติดตามข่าวสารจะพบว่าไม่มีบุคคลใด มีความรู้สึกที่เป็นลบต่อการปฏิบัติดูแลของ จนท.ไม่มีลักษณะที่เป็นทุกข์แต่อย่างใด ทุกคนมีความเข้าใจ และยินดีให้ความร่วมมือตามแนวทาง คสช.เป็นอย่างดี”)

“As for Brad Adams, Asia Director of HRW, who wants the reasons and location of detention for Kritsuda to be disclosed, [the reasons are]: (สำหรับที่ นาย แบรด อดัมส์ ผู้อำนวยการฝ่ายเอเชียของ HRW ต้องเการให้ปิดเผยสถานที่ควบคุมตัวของ คุณ กริชสุดา นั่น)”

“[It] was in order to be away from away chaos and not to be disturbed from things around her so in order she able to concentrate in order to regain her composure. Rethink things. Adjust the understanding or mostly at times in accordance with the desires of that person. It is a short time as long as necessary. Sufficient to change the thinking and understanding. Some people come and then ago. Others 1 day, 3 days, the most is 7 days” (“เพื่อต้องการออกไปจากความวุ่นวายและไม่ถูกรบกวนจากสิ่งรอบตัว เพื่อให้มีสมาธิไตร่ตรองตั้งสติ ทบทวนสิ่งต่างๆ ปรับความเข้าใจกัน หรือบางครั้งส่วนใหญ่จะเป็นไปตามความต้องการของบุคคลนั้นๆ เอง จะเป็นช่วงเวลาสั้นๆ เท่าที่จำเป็น เพียงพอต่อการปรับทัศนคติและทำความเข้าใจกัน บางบุคคลมาแล้วกลับเลย บางคน 1วัน 3วัน มากที่สุดไม่เกิน 7 วัน”)

BP: The above is Orwellian, to say the least. So if she was detained initially under suspicion of a crime, was she released before being invited to report again on June 18? (yes, her name is on the list to report on June 18) There is no mention that she was released and she was apparently able to report on June 18 so why wouldn’t the authorities want to publicize the fact she had previously been released after the June 10 prominent mention of her by HRW? Instead, we have a public “invitation” on June 17 for her to report again. Given her family were looking for her, surely the authorities would want to publicize her arrival on June 18 and show everyone that she was safe. The arrival of many of those invited to meet the military are documented by the media as there is a two-hour window for multiple people to report. Surely, given the prominence of this given the HRW statement on June 10, this would have been the case as well on June 18.

Then on June 23, she appeared on Thai TV:

In late June, Kritsuda was the focus of media and human rights organizations because during her detention, no one was able to contact her and it was not known where she was detained. After rumours that she was tortured, Kritsuda appeared on a special TV programme with the military junta spokesman and said she was “happier than words can say”.

BP: After being paraded in front of the cameras in a video reminiscent of a hostage video whereby the person is telling the world they are being treated well, she was released the next day.

The Nation on August 4:

The military junta’s spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvari, yesterday rebutted the allegation by a red-shirt activist that the NCPO had assaulted her during her detention.

Winthai said Kritsuda Khunasen had made the allegation to draw attention from human rights agencies and to discredit the NCPO.

He said Kritsuda was detained because she was related to a suspect “allegedly linked with several crimes”. He suspected that Kritsuda made the allegation out of concern for her own safety after having leaked information on the damaged parties to officials.

He said during her detention, Kritsuda had cooperated with authorities and provided useful information. “She has been worried about her own safety and wants to live in oblivion. She asked for protection, which we have provided her,” he said.

“Even though authorities have promised to protect her for helping make progress in several cases, as she played a supporting role in those cases, she may not be confident and probably fears that she may suffer legally from the consequences, or she fears her life may be in danger because of her statements that adversely affect the damaged parties,” he said.

BP: Was she detained for so long because she asked for protection? That doesn’t match up with the earlier statements. She was detained long enough that in a scenario where she tripped and injured herself at the beginning of her detention that the bruises and other injuries would have healed, with proper medical treatment, by June 24…..

As a reminder to all, the contents and wording of this post reflect the post-coup freedom of speech environment that exists…