BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s Cabinet has approved draft laws on prevention of torture and forced disappearances, a measure that has long been sought by human rights activists.
The demand for such legislation has gained momentum in recent years after the well-publicized abductions of several social and political activists, most recently an exiled government critic who disappeared in neighboring Cambodia last month.
Thailand’s military has also been accused of carrying out torture as part of its effort to quell a Muslim separatist insurgency in the country’s southernmost provinces.
Deputy government spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek said after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the draft laws are a response to many allegations of torture and forced disappearances.
“Complaints have been filed to the U.N. from time to time about government officials who do not face any penalty for their deeds. And there are no statutes covering punishment and compensation in the existing laws on torture and enforced disappearance. Therefore, the enactment of this law is a solution to the problems,” she said.
The bills will be sent to the Council of State for legal review and then be submitted to Parliament.
She said if they become law, Thailand will have fulfilled its commitment in ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Thailand is already a signatory to both international treaties.
However, a legal adviser to the International Commission of Jurists said the draft disappearance law approved by the Cabinet is deficient in many respects that make it inconsistent with the international treaty on the subject.
Sanhawan Srisod said that according to the principles of the international agreement, there is no expiry date for abduction cases, which remain open as long as the person is missing. This principle is not included in the draft law, she said.
Ratchada said the draft law on disappearances would allow family members to file lawsuits on behalf of missing relatives. Penalties under both laws are prison terms of one to 10 years, and fines of 20,000-200,000 baht ($650-$6,500).