THE Thai government has finally moved to make torture and forced ‘disappearances’ illegal, following years of pressure from the local and international community.
Currently, the endorsed bill states that officials who are found guilty of committing torture or forced disappearance could face up to 20 years in prison. If it results in serious injury, the maximum sentence is increased to 30 years.
As for cases where a victim is tortured to death, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
In its endorsement of the bill, the cabinet said the law would serve “to raise human rights protection in Thailand to the same par with the international standard”, reported Khaosod English.
Human rights activist Pornpen Khongkachonkiet told the news portal that though the cabinet’s endorsement was a positive step, the battle was far from over, as the bill would still have to gain the approval of the junta-appointed legislature before it can become law.
Pornpen said that the eradication of the practice of torture and enforced disappearances in Thailand would take far more than creating a law to criminalize it.
“Ten years from now, it will still happen,” she said. “It’s like the fact there are laws criminalizing rape and murder, but we still see it happening. Changing the attitude of state officials is necessary.”
She also warned that the law could even be rendered ineffectual as it passes through the bureaucratic process, as it could be amended with exemptions and loopholes.
Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia (OHCHR) issued a statement welcoming the decision by the Thai government to enact a law that would outlaw such practices, noting that it has recorded 82 outstanding cases of enforced disappearances in Thailand.
“These decisions by the government are positive steps toward meeting international human rights standards, and we urge the National Legislative Assembly to pass the torture and enforced disappearance law as a matter of priority,” it said.