Thailand: Prayuth orders end to ‘parading’ of suspects in high-profile cases
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Thailand: Prayuth orders end to ‘parading’ of suspects in high-profile cases

THAI police will stop the practice of parading suspects during press conferences following an order issued by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha on Friday.

Prayuth pointed out that the suspects could speak out to defend themselves in court.

His decision to bar arranged public appearances of the suspects comes amid calls from human rights groups and other stakeholders to cease exposing them to the media.

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“Presenting suspects in a press conference must not be done. Photos (of them) are enough,” Prayuth told reporters at an anti-drug event, as quoted by The Nation.

“I understand that the media wishes to get information and news, but sometimes it has negative results,” he said.

Among other incidences, the issue of suspects speaking to the media comes in wake of comments by Wattana Pummares, who is accused of bombings in Bangkok. The suspect had said he planted several bombs in retaliation of the military government and its leaders.

The practice of bringing suspects in high-profile cases in press conferences is common in Thailand, stoking fears of trial by media and a violations of human rights.

The identities of suspects are often exposed to the public even though they have yet to be convicted of any crime.

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According to The Nation, National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelaphaijit in May said the issue was especially sensitive in human-trafficking cases as alleged victims are publicly questioned instead of being asked to do so behind closed doors and before a multidisciplinary team.

“It’s very worrying that in high-profile flesh trade cases, senior policemen have brought suspects and victims to press conferences,” Angkhana said.

“Don’t forget that suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty,” she said.

Angkhana said this in wake of an incident where suspects of a high-profile child-prostitution scandal spoke to the media at a press conference where a mother of an alleged victim was also present.

Prayuth has in the past issued similar orders barring such press conferences but his instruction has largely been ignored.

Angkhana said suspects whose names are later cleared would face difficulty reintegrating into society because their identities were earlier exposed and not every member of public is aware of his or her acquittal.