Thai prison is real, should be shut down

In his letter to The Japan Times in the June 11 edition, Thai Ambassador Bansarn Bunnag accused Pavin Chachavalpongpun of making unsubstantiated claims when he reported that there is a temporary prison on the grounds of the Daveevattana (Thavi Wattana) Palace of Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn, a prison that inmates describe as “hell on Earth.” The prison is real, and our organization has already translated the public documents authorizing this prison into English and paired it with a Google Earth map, so both Thai- and English-speaking people can know the shocking facts. You can see the evidence at tahr-global.org/?p=32209.

The Thai Alliance for Human Rights has been concerned about this prison since we learned of its existence at the beginning of March, when Jumpol Manmai, who had been a close aid to the king, first disappeared, then reappeared, and was taken from court back to this prison.

So the prison exists. The only remaining mystery is what all goes on there. Having a secret prison that cannot be visited by the public, at the home of a king who is above the law, is a recipe for rampant human rights abuses, including enforced disappearance, torture and even murder. Indeed, Chachavalpongpun lists the names of three men who died there under suspicious circumstances.

If the rumors of rampant human rights abuses are false, the king can put them to rest by inviting an international human rights organization such as Amnesty International to visit the temporary prison. If they are true, the Thai government should close this shadowy prison and take away Vajiralongkorn’s power to persecute people on a whim.

The Thai ambassador also claimed that Thailand respects freedom of opinion and expression, when in fact Thailand’s barbaric lese majeste law prescribes three to 15 years in jail for anyone saying anything negative about this king, and Chachavalpongpun has been exiled simply for doing his job as a political scientist. If only Thailand did have free speech, ongoing human rights abuses could be brought to light and future abuses prevented.

ANN NORMAN
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THAI ALLIANCE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS PITTSBURGH

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.